What does Low Vision mean?

Published on
January 5, 2022

We use the term low vision but for many people that  term can be confusing, because what does that mean exactly? Low Vision really encompasses a number of findings and a number of symptoms for the patient. So if a patient has conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or any other disease process, then it can lead to the patient having low vision. One of the main things we're gonna see in a patient with low vision is reduced visual acuity. So this means that typically, we want to correct a patient to 20/20 on the eye chart. Once a patient has physical damage to the eye from the disease process, they're no longer correctable to 20/20. So as time goes on, particularly if it's a progressive condition, then we may see the visual acuity reduced to 2040. And then in a few years, it may be reduced to 20/70, and so on. 

What are the effects of reduced visual acuity?

The effects of reduced vision acuity is going to be difficulty in doing things like driving, difficulty in watching television, seeing detail on faces, recognizing people when you're in places, and having difficulty with things up close. Most low vision patients who have reduced visual acuity will have trouble reading, using a computer, using a phone, or doing any detailed near vision as well (such as sewing or playing cards). 

What are the effects of reduced contrast sensitivity?

Another big thing that we see as a symptom of low vision is going to be what's called reduced contrast sensitivity. So when that decreases, that means that if everything's like really nice dark black on a white background, it's going to be easier for the patient to see. But as it starts to fade out, it becomes more difficult. So if somebody is trying to read something on a paper and it's black ink on a white background, they may be able to see it in a certain size. But when they pick up the newspaper, they may no longer be able to read that because the contrast is poor. 

What are the effects of Glare sensitivity? 

Another common finding in low vision patients is glare sensitivity. This could be where they're sensitive to lighting indoors or outdoors or both. And so we may find that these patients tend to do things like wear a hat, or sunglasses frequently. It can also be a disability glare to where it washes things out and they're no longer able to see, the best example to compare that to is if you've ever been in a really dim setting, like say, at a movie theater and you've been in the dark for a long time and then you emerge into the bright sunlight and it's blinding for a moment and you're unable to see. That's what somebody with low vision can experience on a regular basis.

How can a low vision Optometrist help? 

A low vision optometrist will assess the cause of vision loss and guide the patient on the best adaptive tools and methods that can help them function with the vision that they have. For example if the low vision exam shows that the primary cause of low vision is reduced visual acuity then there are specific devices and adaptations that can help that patient regain their visual independence. Examples include magnification, bioptic telescopes for driving, prisms, and telescopes. If the patient's low vision is a result of contrast sensitivity or glare then filters or digital magnifiers may be recommended.  Since many patients may have multiple causes of visual impairment it is important to schedule a low vision exam so that our doctor can give you more specific information as it relates to maximizing your remaining vision. 

Learn more about the symptoms of low vision here. 


To schedule a low vision exam call our office at (423) 710 3965.


Vision therapy is well worth the response, time and effort. Our Son had a hard time focusing and writing neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time if previously took. His abilities to focus improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent, we wanted learning to be fun for our Son, and vision therapy made this possible.

Amanda T.

Vision Therapy is well worth the expense, time and effort. Our son had a hard time focusing handwriting neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time it previously took his abilities to focus and improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent you wanted learning to be fun for our son and vision therapy made this possible.

Alexa H.

Vision Therapy has given or son the tools he needs to be able to scan and read the written word more effectively and efficiently.

He love working with John and these working sessions give him the motivation to gladly work on his homework assignments.

It amazed us to see the difference in the tracking of his eyes and along a line of it's from the beginning to the end of the treatment.

Dr. McBryar , Kristen and John  are all marvelous and we would recommend them to anyone I only wish that we would have found them sooner!

Charlotte M.

Prior to coming to the institute for vision development my son complained of daily headaches. Therapy has eliminated his headaches completely. I love knowing my son is able to learn pain-free for the rest of his life because of the work that has been done over just a few weeks in this office. He he absolutely loved coming that didn't even feel like going to a doctor or therapy. We are grateful for the relief he was able to find by coming here.

Thank you!

Olivia C.

Seems much less frustrated with life

Reads non-stop and fast

Spelling abilities have been hugely improved

Seems much more confident

Thank You!!!

Kelly O.

When we first came to the practice, my son did not have huge issues, but lots of small ones- trouble with reading, sports (hitting the baseball consistently), coordination, etc- that were not easily detectable,but when put together presented issues. The staff here were all very professional and loving towards him. While I was concerned in the reading, my son was concerned with the athletic side. Seeing improvement night off the bat gave him confidence that i have nor seen in him and made him want to not only Come to therapy, but also made him want to work hard. He has surpassed his grade level and above in reading and hit his first home run this year! Thank you!!!

Alice M.
1 2 3 10



The impact of screen time on dry eye: tips for prevention

According to a recent study, people who spend more than 2 hours a day on digital devices are 2.5 times […]

Read More

Chattanooga pediatric eye doctor shares how children with vision problems can struggle academically

Many people believe that good eyesight is simply the ability to read the "20/20" line on an eye chart, but […]

Read More

Is there a difference between a scratched eye and a scratched cornea?

Corneal abrasions, or scratched corneas, are a common occurrence and make up a significant portion of eye injury cases. In […]

Read More
see all blogs

Contact Us To Amplify Your EyeCare

Amplify EyeCare Chattanooga Logo

Working Hours

Monday - Tuesday
7:30AM - 5:15PM

Wednesday - Thursday
8:00AM - 5:15PM

Friday - Sunday

1043 Executive Drive Suite #101 Hixson, TN 37343
(423) 710 3966
Website Accessibility Policy
Safety protocols page
privacy policy
For Patients
Call Us
eyefile-adduserphone-handsetcalendar-fullarrow-uparrow-right linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram