Archive for May, 2014

Low Vision Disease Spotlight: Retinitis Pigmentosa

Posted on: May 27th, 2014 by lowvision

This week we are spotlighting retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which is an inherited, progressive deterioration of the retina. Unlike many low vision diseases, RP is rare with only 100,000 Americans currently suffering from the condition.

Although the name suggests that RP is a single disease, it is actually classified as a group of diseases that gradually damage the light-sensing cells in the back of the eye. These cells – or “rods” – are responsible for seeing in dimly-lit environments and play a critical role in night vision. For individuals with RP, nighttime activities like driving can be extremely difficult.

RP is characterized by the gradual loss of central vision. Often times, individuals with RP will also experience deterioration of peripheral vision and in some cases, blindness.

While RP can occur at any stage in life, it is most commonly seen in young adulthood.

Signs and Symptoms of RP:

  • Poor night vision – which can be evident even in early childhood
  • Deterioration of color vision or inability to distinguish colors

Unfortunately, there is no cure for RP, however, several devices and treatment options are currently being researched and tested. Advancements in technology, like the retinal prosthesis system, allow eyeglasses with tiny video cameras to transmit electronic signals into healthy retina cells. Through this system, visual information is sent from the optic nerve to the brain and interpreted as objects or outlines.

Individuals with RP can also use low vision devices like handheld magnifiers and small reading lamps to complete various daily living tasks. Occupational therapy may also be beneficial for those learning how to adjust to life with a low vision disease.

If you’ve experienced any of the signs and symptoms noted above, or have a family history of RP, ask your eye doctor for a visual field test. Tests can help determine the presence of any disease and the extent of damage, including loss of night or color vision.


Protecting Eyes from the Sun’s Ultraviolet Rays

Posted on: May 15th, 2014 by lowvision

Invisible – but strong and dangerous – the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays pose a serious threat to our eyes and vision health.

Unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays can result in immediate, short-term vision consequences like dry eyes, irritation and hypersensitivity to light. More importantly, years of outdoor exposure can destroy cells in the retina and accelerate low vision diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that up to 20 percent of all cataract cases are attributable to UV radiation.

While cataracts and AMD can take years to develop, the risk of disease increases every time we’re exposed to the sun. That’s why sunglasses and other UV-protective eyewear are so important. For individuals with low vision, special precautions and eyewear can make all of the difference.

  • Ask your eye doctor about low vision sunglasses or prescription filters that can both protect your eyes and also optimize your vision. This is particularly beneficial for adults with AMD.
  • If you are older, remember to steer clear of dark-tinted sunglasses as these can minimize contrast and contribute to falls.
  • Consider different lens tints or color options that can enhance your vision during specific activities. For instance, yellow, orange and brown lenses can improve contrast, making it easier to see curbs and steps.
  • Try on polarized lenses to see how glare and reflected sunlight is reduced; polarized sunglasses are often recommended for activities like driving.
  • Don’t be fooled by clouds: the sun’s rays can pass through haze and thin clouds.

By embracing these simple tips, you can enjoy the summer sun safely while protecting your vision. For more on UV radiation and eyes, check out The Vision Council online at And look for our new report on sunglasses and UV protection, which will be available via the website on Tuesday, May 20.

Is Low Vision Rehabilitation Right for You?

Posted on: May 7th, 2014 by lowvision

The progression or diagnosis of a low vision disease can be extremely difficult. It brings with it questions, fears and a sense of uncertainty about the future of your vision. During these times it’s especially important to stay positive, be proactive, and set goals. Low vision does not mean a low quality of life; aids, tools, support groups and rehabilitation services all provide options and opportunities for those faced with vision deterioration or loss.

Low vision rehabilitation services, for instance, maximize the use of existing vision in order to sustain levels of independence. And while they can’t restore sight, they can help individuals cope with relevant physical and emotional difficulties like:

  • Performance of activities of daily living
  • Mobility
  • Feelings of isolation
  • Mood/depression
  • Quality of life
  • Accidents/falls and the resulting injury

Through low vision rehabilitation programs, ophthalmologists, optometrists and low vision therapists teach individuals to adjust to such challenges – and prepare for any additional decreases in vision. For instance, spectacle-mounted reading lenses to improve reading performance; or, at-home orientation trainings to help navigate the kitchen or stairs.

Rehabilitation programs vary from practice to practice but services generally fall into five categories. The chart below provides a brief overview and the types of services provided within each category.

 Rehabilitation Program  Services Provided
Training in the use of low-vision devices  Once a low vision device has been prescribed by an eye doctor, training will teach patients how to use the device and how to integrate it into daily routines.
Rehabilitation teaching  Adaptive techniques, such as computer programs with eccentric retinal loci, to improve reading performance and other activities of daily living.
Rehabilitation counseling/intervention  Interventions allow individuals to learn and problem solve with their peers and health professionals. These sessions improve cognitive and behavioral functions, and ultimate arm individuals with self-management skills.
Orientation and mobility training  Orientation and mobility training includes work with orientation, navigation, walking through environments, using cross streets and public transportation, distance judgment, and self-protection skills.
Independent living support  Independent living support programs provide training for everyday life skills like meal preparation, moving around the home, identifying money and medications, and telling time.


Low vision rehabilitation programs are expanding and extensive trainings are now offered across many different healthcare disciplines. And while everyone has a unique experience, programs have supported many individuals learning to adjust to life with low vision. Many Medicare carriers now cover at least some rehabilitation services.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, approximately 1.3 million Americans could benefit from low vision rehabilitation services. If you’re thinking about a low vision rehabilitation program, ask your eye doctor for more information and for local recommendations.


Low Vision News Recap – April 2014

Posted on: May 2nd, 2014 by lowvision

Below is a compilation of news you can use relating to low vision and eye health in the month of April.

Too young for cataracts — or was I?
The Washington Post
Eun Kyung Kim, a former reporter for the Associated Press, details her experience with cataracts at a young age. She found that older patients dealing with cataracts often delay surgery, while younger ones don’t. According to Kim, younger patients’ active lifestyles make them less tolerant of any visual problem and more willing to deal with it quickly. What do you think?

Glaucoma Drug May Help Reverse Obesity-Related Vision Loss
U.S. News & World Report
A drug used to treat glaucoma has also been found to help people with vision loss linked to obesity, a new study reveals. Researchers examined the effectiveness of the drug Diamox in women and men with the condition known as “idiopathic intracranial hypertension.” According to the researchers, adding Diamox to participants’ weight-loss plan actually boosted vision improvement, almost by twice as much.

Blind ASU student pioneers visual-assistance app
Arizona Central
A new smartphone video app for the blind is currently under development – created by a former BMX bike rider who lost his vision in a crash. The service, called “Qwik Eyes” will function similarly to Skype and FaceTime and will utilize knowledgeable experts to provide blind individuals with direction for a variety of daily challenges and activities. The process will rely on video feeds to allow navigators offer advice or help. Though the service is years away from completion, it could be a very beneficial app for blind or disabled adults.

Researchers make major breakthrough in treatment for age-related blindness
Fox News
Scientists at Trinity College, Dublin say they have made a major breakthrough in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration. Research revealed that interleukin-18, a component of the immune system, can protect patients from vision loss, and it can be administered in a non-invasive way.

Thought of the month: As the weather changes, how do low vision devices help you celebrate the warmer months?

The Washington Post