This blog discusses the challenges low-vision patients face in living with this condition and offers tips and suggestions for improving their quality of life and performing tasks.

What is low vision?

The American Academy of Ophthalmology defines low vision as vision loss that cannot be corrected by medical or surgical treatments or conventional eyeglasses. A person with low vision must learn to adjust to this traumatic change and their family members must understand how to assist them in minimizing the difficulty from their vision loss.

What are some of the challenges a person with low vision might face?

  • Poor lighting - A person with visual impairment may find that what was normally enough light is now too dim for optimal vision. Lighting is important for improving our eyes' ability to see, much in the same way that a camera’s lens will have a hard time taking a good photo in poor lighting. At home, look to increase lighting in specific areas, such as on the kitchen counter, on the stairs, over the  table, and over their favorite reading chair or desk. Many times the general lighting in the house should be upgraded to stronger lights or new lights should be added. Keep in mind that going out to poorly lit places may not be comfortable, for example  it may be difficult to go to a restaurant. People might have difficulty seeing their food or reading the menu if the lighting is poor inside the restaurant and the contrast is poor on the menu.
  • Contrast - A person with vision loss may have difficulty seeing when two colors are similar. Simple tips like using a black plate for white food, or having the tablecloth be a stronger color that clashes with the silverware, cups, and plate, can eliminate potentially frustrating situations. Different low vision devices can also improve contrast, these include lighting, cctv’s, and filters.
  • Glare - Another issue that people with low vision experience is disability or discomfort glare. When you're in the retail store and the fluorescent lighting is very bright and there's a lot of glare, or the floor is shiny and there are a lot of reflections, an indoor absorptive filter may be very helpful with this. In addition to reducing glare, this will allow the patient to traverse from inside to outside or from outside to inside without having to adjust and transition.
  • Poorly marked or contrasted flooring - Poorly contrasted flooring is another challenge for people with low vision. There can be stairs or curbs on that floor where there is a change in depth so that would require good depth perception. Getting assistance from an orientation mobility instructor is extremely helpful in this case.
  • Organization - When someone loses their vision they may have a hard time seeing things and rely more on their memory. Therefore try to maintain their organization of the home, as moving things around will increase the stress of an already stressful situation.

What low vision aids are most commonly used?

  • Vision aids: Optical or digital devices can help the individual in many different situations. For example at a restaurant with low lighting they can take the device in and read the menu. They can also use a small flashlight or spotlight to help increase the contrast.
  • Lighting options: People with low vision need adequate lighting to maximize their remaining vision. There are various types of lighting for people with vision impairments. We recommend full spectrum, high cri, adjustable color temperature lighting, with adjustable focus so that it can be set in a way that is most comfortable for the person with vision loss.
  • Audio books: Book lovers can continue to enjoy their love of literature and reading with audio books and large-print books
  • Assistive and adaptive technology products and software: This includes reading programs on the computer screen, converting voice to text, and text to speech software. There are many applications on phones that are also very helpful for a person with vision loss.
  • Digital device settings: Using settings on your computer or phone will allow you to adjust the contrast, magnification, brightness, color tone, and more.
Schedule with eye doctors for a low vision evaluation at our trusted optometry clinic in Hixson, attracting patients from Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Middle Valley. Call (423) 321-8233 or fill out this form to make an appointment today.
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