What Does It Mean to Have Low Vision?




Low vision, by definition, is an eye condition often caused by a disease that is not correctable with regular lenses or eyeglasses. As a result, low vision prevents those affected from engaging in their regular daily activities such as reading, cooking, watching television, and more.


Low vision is not to be confused with blindness. It’s actually a much less severe condition. The amount of what someone with this condition can see differs from person to person.


Who Does It Affect?

Realistically, low vision can affect anyone at any time during their life regardless of age. The World Health organization has estimated that about 246 million people around the world suffer from low vision.


Spotting the Symptoms

Luckily, spotting the symptoms for low vision is quite simple. Though the symptoms listed may not absolutely mean you have low vision, if you find that you experience more than one of the following symptoms, it’s crucial to seek help from your optometrist.


Symptoms of low vision may include:

  • Not being able to see lights that used to be bright

  • Trouble with reading, sewing or cooking because of poor sight

  • Not being able to recognize faces of friends and family or street signs at a distance

  • Difficulty differentiating between similar colors

How Is Low Vision Tested?

Low vision is tested in a number of ways. Because this condition is subjective in the sense that not everyone experiences it in the same way, sometimes optometrists need to perform several tests to understand the level of vision and to determine how to treat it.


One classic way to test it is using the Snellen Chart. We’ve all been subjected to this test at some point. If you happen to be one of the few to escape the pressures of this specific eye test, it’s simple to understand. With or without glasses, you’ll be asked to stand at a certain distance away from the chart (about 20 feet). Then you’ll be asked to read the letters out loud, until you can no longer see them.


This tests, generally, visual acuity in people with low vision but may not be an indication of what they can and cannot see. If a person is unable to read past the third line of letters, they are classified as a person with low vision.


Other tests may include the examination of your pupils to see how they react to shapes and light. Special eye drops may be used to enlarge the pupils so that your doctor may examine the inner parts of your eye.


What Causes Low Vision and How Is It Treated?

Low vision is widely associated with the elderly; however it is not a result of the natural aging process. This condition is directly related to eye diseases or eye injuries that are often the cause.


Common diseases that could cause this condition are cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is the most common cause.


Unfortunately, there is no corrective treatment for low vision. The only way to treat it is to adapt and learn to see again with your new vision. A number of visual aids are available for those with low vision.


Here are some technologies that can help with low vision:

  • E-Readers that have adjustable font sizes to make the writing as big as you need

  • Smartphones (like Apple or Android) that come with low vision options such as magnifying text, enlarging font, and a voice interface that can read texts out loud

  • Sensor activated lights that turn on when someone enters a room

Another way to make seeing easier for those with low vision is to color contrast their home. For example, light switches that are painted the same color as the wall may be hard to find with low vision. Taping the area around the switch black to contrast a light wall will make finding it much easier. Consider doing the same with electrical outlets and other important switches.


How Can It Be Prevented?

Low vision can be prevented by simply taking care of your eyes. Many a time people do not take proper care of their eyes or even neglect them. What many people don’t realize is that sooner or later, the neglect catches up to them and before they know it, their most precious sense will wither.


The number one way to help prevent this condition is to make sure you’re getting the right eye vitamins. For example, Vitamin A and Vitamin E are essential nutrients when it comes to preventing sight loss caused by macular degeneration and cataracts. Keeping a diet high in dark and leafy greens and bright orange vegetables will also help you obtain these vitamins more naturally.


We don’t always have the time to eat a well-balanced diet. However, what we eat is very important for eye health. Eye vitamins, have been proven to help significantly improve vision. Taking them regularly in tandem with eating well and exercising will help preserve your vision for years to come.


Low vision can also be prevented by cutting out bad habits. Smoking destroys your vision in many ways, so cutting that out will improve your chances of maintaining good eyesight. You should also wear proper, UV-rated sunglasses while spending time outdoors. While vitamin D is definitely good for you, the sun’s UV rays can cause permanent damage to your eyes.


Luckily, preserving your vision is pretty simple. The normal things you do to take care of your body – like eating right, exercising, and avoiding bad habits – will also preserve your vision. Taking care of yourself is important, so do yourself a favor and keep these tips in mind next time you head to the grocery store. Your future self will thank you! This post originally appeared on Rebuild Your Vision.