Who needs low vision care?

Published on
February 7, 2022

A patient with low vision should make an appointment with an eye doctor that is a specialist in low vision as soon as possible. In this article we discuss who needs low vision care and the appropriate time to see a low vision optometrist.

Many people realize they need low vision care only when they begin to experience significant vision loss. Patients with diseases and conditions that lead to permanent vision loss such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy require low vision care the moment they are diagnosed. Having 20/40 vision on an eye chart doesn’t necessarily imply they do not have low vision. Those with 20/40 vision may begin to find it difficult to read small text or the newspaper as they once did. It is important to begin low vision care early and to update the eye care plan as the vision continues to deteriorate. If the vision has changed over the years, updated recommendations are made to provide them with beneficial devices and aids. To make daily activities easier for patients with declining vision, occupational therapy may be recommended.

Gradually introducing low vision devices

At the early stages of vision loss the devices and tools available to improve vision are less intrusive or difficult for a patient to transition too. For example at the earliest stages of vision loss a patient may see incredible results with improved lighting, colored filters, or slight magnification to their glasses or reading glasses. These changes are small, and often not noticeable. With more advanced vision loss, the devices are often more obvious to others, and are a difficult adjustment if they are the first low vision device that the patient has used.  

Vision Loss is not only about your visual acuity

When a person begins to experience vision loss they not only require some assistance with the visual tasks that are now difficult, they also need assistance navigating the loss of one of their most important senses. A low vision optometrist is experienced with guiding the patient through the many resources, tools, and emotional changes that come about after vision loss. They will serve as a valuable point of reference for low vision patients and their family members to understand the major life change that they are experiencing. With a low vision optometrist as part of a low vision patients care team, the change becomes a little less scary, a little less overwhelming and traumatic. Having the guidance is essential as the patient begins the process of vision loss, which is why a low vision patient should not wait until they have experienced significant vision loss before visiting a low vision optometrist.

What conditions require a low vision optometrist? 

 Anyone that has vision loss and is unable to improve their vision sufficiently with glasses or contact lenses should schedule a low vision exam. 

This includes (but is not limited to): 

  • Macular Degeneration (AMD) 
  • Glaucoma 
  • Inoperable Cataracts 
  • Vision Threatening Diabetic Retinopathy 
  • Cancer of the eye 
  • Retinitis Pigmentosa 
  • Ocular Albinism 
  • Juvenile Retinoschisis
  • Best Disease 
  • Stargardt Disease 
  • Visual Field Loss after a stroke
  • Ocular Trauma 
  • Usher Syndrome
  • Leber congenital amaurosis
  • Bardet-Biedl syndrome
  • Nystagmus
  • Corneal Scarring or Opacification
  • Optic atrophy
  • Optic nerve hypoplasia

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