Vision is a complex sense, encompassing your ability to perceive detail (acuity), color and contrast, and to distinguish objects. These capacities can diminish naturally with age. While most of your visual changes can be corrected by glasses, medicine or surgery, visual changes caused by eye disease, poor health or injury can cause permanent vision loss. If the loss is total, the result is blindness. If it is partial, the result is a vision impairment known as "low vision." A person with low vision has severely reduced visual acuity or a significantly obstructed field of vision, or both.
Many visually impaired people experience difficulty with regular activities such as cooking, shopping, managing finances, watching television, reading, and taking care of their personal needs. Many people with low vision have concerns about finding and keeping a job, dealing with friends and family members, getting around, and participating in recreational and social activities. But there are hundreds of low vision aids and scores of proven strategies for coping with low vision. These aids and strategies can help you maximize your remaining vision and maintain your independence.
Low Vision is a bilateral impairment to vision that significantly impairs your functioning and cannot be adequately corrected with medical, surgical, therapy, conventional eyewear or contact lenses. It is often a loss of sharpness or acuity but may present to you as a loss of field of vision, light sensitivity, distorted vision or loss of contrast. Low vision often may occur as a result of birth defects, injury, the aging process or as a complication of disease.
People with low vision retain some usable vision. Ophthalmologists and optometrists specializing in low vision care can evaluate your condition and prescribe optical devices to maximize your remaining vision. Your visual function is not always measured accurately by reading an eye chart. A more thorough functional vision assessment by a low vision specialist is an important first step in your vision’s rehabilitation process.
To a person with low vision, a visual image, whether a sentence from a book or a crosswalk at a busy intersection, may appear distorted, blurred or incomplete. But with the help of low vision devices, the quality of the image can usually be improved. One or more of these devices may be prescribed or recommended to you by a low vision specialist thoroughly evaluating your remaining visual function.
Services are provided by specially trained professionals in a number of settings including hospitals, vision rehabilitation organizations, private optometric and ophthalmologic practices, and educational and university facilities.
These services may include: functional vision examinations; instruction to help you adjust to, and reap the maximum benefits from optical devices such as high-power spectacles, magnifiers and telescopes; trial-period loans of low vision devices; recommendations for adaptive devices that reduce glare, as well as for special lighting, large print material, video magnifiers and adaptive computer technology; prescription of low vision optical devices, follow-up care as needed, including additional low vision instruction and training; introduction/referral to other vision rehabilitation services, including orientation and mobility training; independent living programs and counseling.
In addition to learning how to use optical devices, you can acquire new strategies for: accomplishing everyday tasks, working productively, coping with vision loss and getting around safely. The adaptive process, in coordination with low vision services, is known as vision rehabilitation. Its goal is to equip you with the skills and confidence needed to function as independently as possible.
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