Low Vision Conditions: What You Need To Know
People with low vision are typically defined as those who suffer from eye-related conditions that may not be correctable with corrective lenses or surgery. For these individuals, daily tasks can become difficult or impossible to perform. It’s important that low vision patients understand their condition and how it affects their everyday life.
Understand what visual impairment is
Visual impairment occurs when the eyes of a person have some degree of dysfunction that causes reduced ability to see clearly. This type of disability may result in problems performing various functions such as driving at night, reading text, using tools, and recognizing objects. Some people who suffer from visual impairments use specialized devices to help them read, but others do not need any special equipment.
The severity of visual impairment will depend on several factors including age, health issues, and medications being taken by the patient. A physician may also recommend an evaluation for certain medical conditions that can cause vision loss.
Understand what causes low vision
Some forms of visual impairment, such as macular degeneration, cause a gradual loss of central vision over time. Other conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, affect the retina at an early point in one’s lifetime. Regardless of where vision problems begin, the end result is similar—the patient loses sight of details, like faces and objects, while having trouble seeing large images. This often leads to difficulties reading, driving, and participating in other day-to-day activities.
Macular Degeneration is the most common form of age-related blindness in developed countries. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there will be two million people diagnosed with AMD this year in the United States alone. The disease occurs when cells found lining the back of each eyeball called macula degenerate. As the macula begins to deteriorate, so does the person's ability to read, drive, recognize faces, identify colors and see fine detail. While current treatments can slow the progression of macular degeneration, they cannot cure the condition.
While Macular Degeneration is a chronic condition that gradually worsens over time, Diabetic Retinopathy is an acute onset that results from damage to blood vessels near the center of your eyes caused by high levels of sugar in the blood. In some cases, Diabetic Retinopathy can lead to serious vision issues. Diabetes is a major risk factor for developing macular degeneration.
Understand when to go to the low vision specialist
If you think you might have a problem with your vision, don’t hesitate to visit a low vision specialist to get checked out. Many insurance companies cover visits to an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Depending on your insurance plan and location, you may still require authorization before you can receive low vision services.
You may also want to consider talking to your family members and friends about their experiences. If you notice changes in someone else's behavior or if they seem to struggle to complete basic tasks, let them know that you're concerned. If you live with a loved one that has low vision, ask him or her how he or she manages his or her condition at home, work, school, and social settings. You may find that a loved one needs guidance or assistance with completing daily tasks.
Understand the available treatment options for low vision
There are several types of low vision aids designed to assist visually impaired people. Low vision devices include magnifiers, readers, screens, computers, software programs, and more. Magnifiers are useful for reading small print, but they do have limits. They provide only a limited amount of magnification which makes them less effective for larger documents, books, maps, etc. Readers help individuals who struggle with reading comprehension by highlighting keywords within printed material. These tools are also helpful for making notes on legal contracts or technical manuals.
Many computer programs now come equipped with built-in screen readers. These devices allow individuals with low vision to access information via computer. Some screen readers are integrated into operating systems; others work independently and require users to download special software.
Screen readers are particularly helpful for people with Dyslexia. Screen readers can highlight text on websites or documents. They also make it possible for a user to copy and paste information directly from a website onto another electronic document, like an e-mail.
Software programs can also assist with certain low vision needs. There are numerous applications available that enable someone with low vision to use standard features of a personal computer, including using email, word processing, and web browsing. However, these products are generally targeted toward children and older adults.
For example, a digital camera is easy to operate even if you have poor vision. Once you learn how to control it, you can take hundreds of pictures every day. If you want to make your own movie with video clips edited together, or you just want to play games online, you'll find many sites where you can try out new things without any charge at all! Many companies offer free trials of their applications that let you explore what their product does before deciding whether you need one.
With a low vision device and training, you can enjoy a variety of activities previously inaccessible with your previous vision abilities. The following article provides information regarding low vision devices and training.
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