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How Proper Lighting Can Help You and Your Low Vision

Proper lighting can be very important, especially for people with low vision. The ideal type of lighting for a given person may vary depending on their condition and the nature of the task that they wish to perform. Positioning of the light source can also contribute to its effectiveness.

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How Proper Lighting Can Help You and Your Low Vision Optometrist

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Lighting for Low Vision

Low vision can make many different daily tasks, such as reading, cooking, or working, a major challenge. One of the ways to deal with low vision is to ensure that there is proper lighting as it can help a person effectively see and it can even reduce the amount of magnification required to perform certain tasks. Proper lighting provides high definition and resolution and it also facilitates adequate contrast to distinguish between an object and its background.

When you’re setting up lighting, you want to make sure that it does not cause glare because that can make it harder to see. It is important to consult with a low vision optometrist who understands the different qualities of light in order to achieve the best light conditions for your visual needs.

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Qualities of Light

There are different qualities of light, which are described below. Understanding how to distinguish between different kinds of light can help you choose which lighting is right for you and for your needs.

Wattage 

A Watt measures how much energy is being used by a product. You can think of it similarly to how much battery is being used on your cell phone. With the introduction of newer, more energy efficient lights such as LEDs, it is no longer useful to use Watts as a measurement of how strong your lights are.

Lumens

This is a measurement of how much light is visible to the human eye so the higher the lumen, the brighter the light will be. It is a more conventional and relevant way of measuring light output, as opposed to wattage. A Watt measures power consumption, whereas a lumen provides the measurement of light output.

Lux

Lux, also known as illuminance, measures how intense a light is on a surface. A lux is equal to one lumen per square meter. A typical household living room has around 50 lux while a grocery store has 750 lux. 

Color Rendering Index (CRI)

Color rendering is a quantitative measurement of how the colors of an object will appear in a certain light source compared to how it would appear in sunlight. A high CRI means that the light source provides good color perception compared to sunlight. When looking for lighting for someone with low vision, you should choose lighting with a CRI of 80 or higher as it provides good color perception.

Color Temperature

Color temperature is a little more subjective, meaning some people may find that they see better with a specific color temperature. This term is used to describe the appearance of light from a light bulb and it is measured in Kelvin. The color temperature will either be more warm with yellow, red or orange or colder like white or blue. Most people stay away from lighting at either end of the spectrum as the lighting is either extremely warm or cold. Low vision optometrists will often recommend lighting that has adjustable color temperature, which allows for the greatest flexibility. Some people will find that colder temperature lighting is better for daylight hours while warmer temperatures are better at night. 

There are different kinds of light which will be discussed below and each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. It is important to understand the different types of light that are available in order to be able to achieve daily tasks in the most comfortable way despite your low vision diagnosis. 

Incandescent

This lighting was the most common type of light you’d find around a typical home until around 2010. It is considered safe for the retina, however it is not an economic choice and it is not good for color perception or for contrast. It is often referred to as yellow light because it is distinctive for its yellowish color.

Halogen

Halogen is good for contrast and for providing a lot of light, but it emits excessive heat. This can be uncomfortable and hazardous, especially if you’re working close to it, as many people with low vision tend to do.

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Fluorescent 

Fluorescent lighting is very often used in public places, such as schools or hospitals and is considered to be energy efficient, bright, economical and safe for the eyes. It is more energy efficient than incandescent or halogen lights and it is not as expensive as LEDs. Fluorescents are not always so easy on the eyes, but it has a range of color temperature flexibility which can be very useful.

LED (Light Emitting Diode)

These lights are recommended for their durability, efficiency and small size. The initial purchase can be expensive, but they are long lasting and do not require much maintenance. This type of light is an extremely adaptable lighting technology that is very innovative for people with vision loss. LED’s can be made in any shape and size, and can have full spectrum, dimming, changeable color temperatures, and when properly designed are cool to the touch. 

Full-Spectrum

Full spectrum light is a term used to describe illumination that is the closest to mimicking natural sunlight so it boasts a high color rendering index. It includes the entire color range which is helpful for people who have difficulty with contrast sensitivity because full spectrum lighting can help make colors more discernible and crisp. Artists, graphic designers, and museums will generally look for full spectrum lighting in order to ensure that they can discern minute changes to the color. 

Lighting Placement

While the type of light is important, the placement of the light has a great impact as well. Your low vision optometrist will discuss with you which tasks are important for you to accomplish that are challenging due to low vision. You will then be advised as to which lights are appropriate for different scenarios and how to set up your lighting in the optimal way. The low vision optometrist will give you different tips for specific tasks. For example, it is easier to watch television in a room that is lit, as opposed to a dark room. In order to check if there is glare on the TV screen you can turn the TV off and see if the light is hitting on the screen and then readjust.

Tips for Better Lighting

There are many factors to keep in mind when you’re setting up your illumination. For example, when doing something requiring attention to detail, such as reading, you don’t want the light to be too far away as too much distance means less illumination reaches the page. The further away that the light is placed, the more powerful it will need to be. Conversely, having the light too close to the page can be overpowering and make it harder to read.

It is advisable to have directional lighting such as floor and table lamps, which have an effect on the surfaces where you read or need improved lighting. Adjustable stands are recommended, as they grant increased flexibility regarding the angle the light is at. Very often, low vision optometrists will recommend lighting that is adjustable which allows you to bring the lamp closer or farther away as needed. Keep in mind that sometimes when you bring a lamp very close to you, the heat emitted could become uncomfortable. A good tip to solve that issue is to use a lamp with a double shade, also known as an internal reflector which reduces the level of heat and allows the user to keep the light in the precise position needed, even if that’s close to your face. Also, you might want to avoid using a metal shade for a lamp that is placed close to you because it can become very hot.

Specific lights can also be placed in key areas where they’ll be needed. For example, you can put lights by kitchen cabinets or work areas. In addition to adding direct lighting to your home or workspace, indirect lighting such as ceiling or wall lights are important. Increasing the amount of light in the hall, stairways, living room, and bathroom are important as they make it easier to navigate, especially for someone with vision loss. In addition to direct lighting, it is always recommended to improve the overall lighting to assist those with low vision. Dimmer switches and timers can also be utilized to control how much light is in a space at any given time.

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Common Questions

Proper lighting is essential for individuals with low vision to maximize their remaining sight. LED or halogen lights that provide a bright and consistent light source are often recommended. Adjustable lighting that can be tailored to specific tasks or needs is also beneficial. Glare-free lighting fixtures, which can be placed to illuminate reading materials or work areas without causing reflection, are essential.
Lighting plays a crucial role in how well we see. Inadequate lighting can lead to eyestrain, discomfort, and difficulties in performing visual tasks, while proper lighting enhances visibility and comfort. For individuals with low vision, having the correct lighting can mean the difference between performing a task independently or needing assistance. Bright, evenly distributed light without glare helps in maximizing visual performance, especially for reading or other detail-oriented activities.
When considering lighting for low vision, it's essential to focus on intensity, color, direction, and uniformity. Intensity should be adjustable to cater to specific needs and avoid glare. The color of light can affect contrast and visibility; a clear, bright white light is usually preferred. Directional lighting that can be adjusted to focus on a task is beneficial, and uniformity ensures there are no shadows or dark areas. Proper lighting can make a significant difference in enhancing residual vision and improving quality of life, so it's often advised to consult a low vision eye doctor to get a comprehensive low vision exam and personalized lighting recommendations.
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Summary

Lighting is very important especially for people with low vision, though it can be a bit of a challenge, at times, to determine just what type of lighting, and which lighting devices you will need. A consultation with a low vision optometrist can help you make those decisions, and the low vision doctor can also recommend high quality lighting products specifically tailored to your needs and to your set up at home and at work. If you are experiencing low vision, you can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit to schedule a low vision eye  exam and consultation. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.

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