What is low vision?

February is mostly known for Valentine’s day but in the optometry world it is also known as low vision month! There’s a significant part of the population that struggles with low vision and that will struggle with it in the future. The National Eye Institute quotes “ By 2030, when the last baby boomers turn 65, the number of people 65 and over is projected to reach 7.2 million, with 5 million having low vision.”

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Low Vision is most commonly caused by macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. People over the age of 50 have a higher risk of developing low vision. Having low vision means that you will still have some usable vision however blur you are experiencing will not be able to be corrected with prescription lenses, surgery or any other medical treatment. Every day tasks such as cleaning, cooking ,writing or watching TV are difficult with low vision and may be frustrating to deal with. The main symptom is the inability to see despite the fact you are wearing corrective lenses. If you notice that suddenly it becomes hard to read, write, shop or recognize familiar faces, you should book an appointment to see your optometrist right away. Low Vision is NOT a normal sign of aging.

Low vision techniques that can make your life easier include: Increasing lighting in all living areas, create more contrast around yourself, use a nice coloured tablecloth so that your white dishes are more visible. Use a bold tip marker when writing or making a to do list. The easiest way to read is from a tablet or computer with increased font size and using a light-on-dark colour scheme (white letters on a black background). A tablet can also be used as a magnifier: use the camera function over top of what you would like to see and magnify the picture. You can also use a magnifying glass or other magnifier such as a stand or bubble magnifier. In Canada, the CNIB is a great resource. Their aim is to “deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion”. Right now they have a campaign for people to donate their old smart phones which can be re-purposed into an aid for people with sight loss.

If you or a loved one suffer from low vision, do not be discouraged, there are many resources and products available to help. Our optometrist, Dr. Hines, would be happy to speak with you about your options. Please feel free to contact our clinic for an appointment.

Teri Hines