Archive for the ‘Caregivers’ Category

How smartphones and apps are liberating the blind and visually impaired

Posted on: August 18th, 2015 by lowvision

Have you found any great apps or computer programs to help assist you or a loved one with your day to day activities?

The San Jose Mercury News published a great article listing some of the available resources for living–and computing–with low vision.

Ruben Morales, a blind 59-year-old retired engineer who lives in Morgan Hill, has used a specialized screen-reading program for years to write and run spreadsheets on his desktop computer.

But just this month, he figuratively cut the cord to his desktop and joined the mobile revolution. Morales was visiting the Veterans Affairs Department’s Western Blind Rehabilitation Center in Menlo Park learning how to use an iPhone’s features for vision-impaired people.

“It’s pretty amazing.” Morales said, demonstrating how he can call up a song and play it with a few taps. “Whatever I can do on the computer I can basically do it on the iPhone. It has the same capability.”

Click here for the full article

Selecting the Best Pair of Sunglasses for You

Posted on: May 27th, 2015 by lowvision

Why do we wear sunglasses? Perhaps when we were younger, we thought they looked cool. And they did. They still do. But more and more, we are looking at sunwear as not only a fashion accessory, but also as a health necessity. The sun that does damage to our skin, causing sun burn, age spots, wrinkles and even cancer, also can wreak havoc on our eyes. Again eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration have a direct connection with UV-damage to the eyes. Similar to the effect of sun damage on the skin, sun damage to the eyes is cumulative, meaning it’s never too early to start wearing sunglasses, but also to a point, some damage has already been done.

Research from The Vision Council, a non-profit trade organization for the optical industry, shows that although Americans are more aware of sun damage and the threat that UV rays pose on our visual health, we still are not protecting our eyes as much as we should. Although half of all baby boomers always or often practice sun safe eye health (53%), nearly 23% report rarely or never wearing shades. This is a pretty significant number, especially when we consider how easy protecting our eyes is: WEAR SUNGLASSES. Wear them every time you go outside during the day.

But is it this easy? How do you know that your sunglasses are working, and how do you select the best sunglasses to purchase? Let’s look at a few of the myths about sunglasses, and find out the truth about selecting your next pair of shades.

Myth #1: All sunglasses have UVA and UVB protection

Despite the health risks of UV exposure, not all sunglasses have UV protection. Since UV protection is crucial to shielding eyes from damaging radiation, it is imperative to look for a label, sticker or tag indicating UV protection before purchasing a pair of sunglasses.

Myth #2: Sunglasses with UV protection are expensive

You do not have to pay a premium price to get proper UV protection. Just be sure to purchase your sunglasses from a reputable retailer, regardless of price or retail location. Price will vary depending on the brands you prefer, your lens options, and any other add-ons, such as a prescription lens. Also, be sure to protect your purchase by using a glasses case when you are not wearing your glasses.

Myth #3: The darker the lens is, the better the protection

UV protection has nothing to do with the darkness or color of a lens. According to Dr. Justin Bazan, on optometrist from Brooklyn, NY, “Dark lenses without adequate UV protection can actually be worse than no sunglasses at all because they cause the eye’s pupil to dilate, which then increases retinal exposure to the unfiltered UV. Even though this may make eyes feel comfortable, it’s putting them at greater risk for damage.”

Over the past decade, designers and manufacturers have been constantly researching, testing and innovating new ways to advance the effectiveness and versatility of sunglasses. Talk with your eye care provider to learn more about the lenses and tints that work best for individual lifestyle needs.

Here are a few tips for making your next sunglasses purchase:

  • Buy from a reputable retailer, such as a store or online site. Unlike shades purchased from thrift stores or street vendors, sunglasses sold at trusted retailers meet frame and lens safety criteria set by industry standards.
  • Insist on protection from UVA/UVB rays. If you are unsure if a pair of sunglasses adequately blocks UV, many eye care providers can test the level of protection.
  • Select a lens color that improves clarity and reduces glare. Different colors and tints work in different ways.
  • When in doubt, consult a professional. Eye care providers will be able to make specific recommendations regarding which options are best for you. They can also often test an existing pair of sunglasses with a UV-meter to ensure that the sunglasses that you are wearing are providing proper protection.

For more information about UV eye safety, visit The Vision Council’s website,



Low Vision Report released

Posted on: March 26th, 2015 by lowvision

The Vision Council released the low vision report Vision Loss in America: Aging and Low Vision to bring attention low vision patients and caregivers alike  about low vision and aging eye disease. Among other facts and figures, the report highlights research showing that only approximately 20 percent of adults with severe vision impairment use devices that could help maintain activities of daily living. Click here to access our low vision report Vision Loss in America: Aging and Low Vision.

This report was released in this month, as March is Save Your Vision Month, and has already been well received throughout the consumer press, including a nice piece about low vision from US News & World Report. This piece, entitled “Keep an Eye on Your Eyes” discusses four major eye issues (cataracts, glaucoma, AMD and diabetic retinopathy) and how to treat – and prevent – them.

Here are some eye saving tips from the article:

  • Protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglasses and eye protection as much as possible; adding a hat is even better.
  • Be aware of any family history of eye problems – especially mom or dad – and if there is a family history, get screened regularly.
  • Have your eyes examined yearly
  • Live as healthfully as you can; take care of your eyes by taking care of your overall health.



February is Low Vision Awareness Month

Posted on: February 24th, 2015 by lowvision

To celebrate Low Vision Awareness Month — the National Eye Institute created this infographic about low vision.

Low Vision Awareness Month Infographic

National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP)


Help for people with low vision

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by lowvision

Currently, 4.2 million Americans ages 40 and older are visually impaired. Of these, 3 million have low vision. By 2030, when the last baby boomers turn 65, the number of Americans who have visual impairments is projected to reach 7.2 million, with 5 million having low vision.

For the millions of people who currently live or will live with low vision, the good news is there is help. Vision rehabilitation can make a big difference to a person adjusting to vision loss and should be considered a key part of a patient’s overall care.

But first, what is low vision? Low vision is when even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people have difficulty seeing, which makes everyday tasks difficult to do. Activities that used to be simple like reading the mail, shopping, cooking, and writing can become challenging.

Most people with low vision are age 65 or older. The leading causes of vision loss in older adults are age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma. Among younger people, vision loss is most often caused by inherited eye conditions, infectious and autoimmune eye diseases, or trauma.

For people with low vision, maximizing their remaining sight is key to helping them continue to live safe, productive, and rewarding lives. The first step is to seek help.

“I encourage anyone with low vision to seek guidance about vision rehabilitation from a low vision specialist,” advises Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), one of the

National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the federal government’s principal agency for vision research.

What is a low vision specialist?

A low vision specialist is an ophthalmologist or optometrist who works with people who have low vision. A low vision specialist can develop a vision rehabilitation plan that identifies strategies and assistive devices appropriate for the person’s particular needs.

“A vision rehabilitation plan helps people reach their true visual potential when nothing more can be done from a medical or surgical standpoint,” explains Mark Wilkinson, O.D., a low vision specialist at the University of

Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and chair of the low vision subcommittee for the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP).

Vision rehabilitation can include the following:

  • Training to use magnifying and adaptive devices
  • Teaching new daily living skills to remain safe and live independently
  • Developing strategies to navigate around the home and in public
  • Providing resources and support

There are also many resources available to help people with low vision. NEI offers a 20-page, large-print booklet, titled What You Should Know About Low Vision, and companion DVD, featuring inspiring stories of people living with low vision. This booklet and DVD, among other resources, are available at

With the aging of the population, eye diseases and vision loss have become major public health concerns in the United States. NEI is committed to finding new ways to improve the lives of people living with visual impairment. Aside from making information and resources readily available, NEI has dedicated more than $24 million to research projects on low vision, including learning how the brain adapts to vision loss; strategies to improve vision rehabilitation; and the development of new technologies that help people with low vision to read, shop, and find their way in unfamiliar places. Research like this will help people with low vision to make the most of their remaining vision and maintain their independence and quality of life.

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Posted on: January 20th, 2015 by lowvision

As the second-leading cause of blindness in the world, glaucoma is a serious health condition that often goes undetected. An estimated 2.2 million Americans have the eye disease, but half of them don’t know it. In observance of Glaucoma Awareness Month, we encourage you to learn more about the disease, including warning signs. Most importantly, take this opportunity to schedule an eye exam and speak with the doctor about your personal risk factors.

So what is glaucoma? Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. In most cases, increased pressure causes the damage, which can lead to permanent loss of vision if not treated. With open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, there are usually no symptoms prior to vision loss—and since the loss is slow and begins with peripheral or side vision, it can go unnoticed.

Anyone can develop glaucoma, and at any age, but certain factors increase one’s risk. African Americans, for example, experience greater incidence, as do adults over 60. Family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics and people who are severely nearsighted also may develop glaucoma more easily.

There is no cure for glaucoma, but further vision loss can be prevented with proper treatment. The key is early detection and treatment. High-risk patients should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year or two after age 35. Older adults should also get tested this frequently as well. Treatment for glaucoma varies depending on the type and its stage. Medications, surgery, laser treatments and/or eye drops can halt progression of the disease and help manage symptoms.

Loss of contrast sensitivity, problems with glare and sensitivity to light are three possible effects of glaucoma that may interfere with daily activities. The Vision Council offers these tips to help relieve the symptoms of glaucoma:

• Follow your doctor’s orders. It is very important that glaucoma patients stick to a medication routine and schedule regular checkups with an eye doctor. Medications should be taken at the time of regular daily activities such as brushing one’s teeth or eating lunch so that the habit becomes routine.

• Consider tinted lenses to help with glare and contrast. Yellow, amber and brown tinted lenses reduce the glare from fluorescent lights and can help make activities such as driving easier. On a bright day, try using sunglasses with a brown lens; on overcast days or at night, switch to yellow and amber tints.

• Use devices that are geared toward people with low vision. Many electronic devices have options such as large display screens that make seeing and reading easier. Another option is to manually increase the font size. Watches, too, come with bigger faces and buttons that are easier to read and use. There are also a wide variety of low vision devices available through your low vision specialist to improve visual acuity while completing near, intermediate, and distance tasks.

• Practice eye safety. Try to keep your eyes clean and free of irritants. Women should be careful about eye cosmetics, use nonallergenic brands and replace them often. It’s also important to wear protective glasses when working in the yard or playing contact sports.

For more information about glaucoma, visit

If you or someone you know has glaucoma, what other aids, devices and support do you recommend?

Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Posted on: February 6th, 2014 by lowvision

The 2014 North American cold wave has certainly left its mark on the country. Record low temperatures and headlining snowstorms have made it miserable – and dangerous – to be outside. And for those with low vision, icy conditions can be particularly challenging while walking or driving.

Low vision issues like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration often impact adults’ visual acuity, including contrast sensitivity and depth perception. When combined with icy weather, vision problems can lead to serious falls and life-threatening injury.

To prevent such occurrences, take extra care to assess your environment and stay indoors during precipitation like freezing rain and snow. Be sure to utilize various low vision devices and aides to maximize your remaining vision and restore some form of visual perception. Consider the following products to help you with vision tasks while indoors and out:

• Telescopes
• Hand held magnifiers
• Stand magnifiers
• Spectacle magnifiers
• All terrain canes
• Weather alert radios
• Low vision window pane thermometers

And don’t forget – beyond causing falls, ice and snow are dangerous to your eyes! Fresh snow reflects 85% of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, so shoveling snow or simply looking at it while walking can increase your UV exposure.

UV radiation can progress long-term vision problems like cataracts and macular degeneration, and can cause temporary but painful snow blindness in the winter. Fortunately, UV eye damage can be prevented by simply wearing UV-protective sunglasses. For adults with low vision, talk with your eye doctor about your prescription sunglass options.

Remember, taking extra eye health precautions in the winter can help you avoid falls and other weather-related injury.

How do you stay eye safe during the winter? Use these hashtags on Twitter and Facebook to tell us!

#polarvortex2014 #lowvision #UVrays #eyeseeyou

Set Your Sight on Healthy Vision if You Have Diabetes: National Eye Health Education Program Special Collaboration

Posted on: November 15th, 2013 by lowvision

If you have diabetes, your doctors most likely have told you to keep your blood sugar under control through diet, exercise, and proper medication. But did you know that you also need a dilated eye exam at least once a year? A dilated eye exam is when an eye care professional dilates, or widens, the pupil to check the retina in the back of the eye for signs of damage. All people with diabetes, type 1 and 2, are at risk for vision loss, but certain groups are at higher risk: African Americans, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and Hispanics/Latinos.

The longer a person has diabetes, the greater the risk of diabetic eye disease, which includes the following:
• Cataract (Clouding of the lens of the eye)
• Diabetic Retinopathy (Damage to the retina)
• Glaucoma (Damage to the optic nerve)

In November, when National Diabetes Month is observed in the United States, the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) of the National Eye Institute (NEI) recommends that all people who have diabetes reduce the risk of vision loss from the disease by having a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year.

“Half of all people with diabetes don’t get annual dilated eye exams. People need to know that about 95 percent of severe vision loss from diabetic retinopathy can be prevented through early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up,” said Dr. Suber Huang, chair of the Diabetic Eye Disease Subcommittee for NEHEP.

“Diabetic eye disease often has no early warning signs but can be detected early and treated before vision loss occurs,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., director of NEI. “Don’t wait until you notice an eye problem to have a dilated eye exam, because vision that is lost often cannot be restored.”

In fact, diabetic retinopathy, the most common form of diabetic eye disease, is the leading cause of blindness in American adults ages 20–74. According to NEI, 7.7 million people ages 40 and older have diabetic retinopathy, and this number will likely increase to approximately 11 million people by 2030.

If you have diabetes, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. NEHEP also recommends you keep your health on track by—

Taking your medications.
Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight.
Adding physical activity to your day.
Controlling your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Kicking the smoking habit.

These steps will help you keep your diabetes under control and help protect against diabetic eye disease.

For more information on diabetic eye disease, financial assistance for eye care, and how you can maintain healthy vision, visit or call NEI at 301–496–5248.


The National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), leads the federal government’s research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs that result in the development of sight-saving treatments. For more information, visit

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the Nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

The 4 “A”s of Low Vision: Access, Awareness, Availability, Acceptance

Posted on: July 18th, 2013 by lowvision

It’s no secret that aging and changes in vision are related to one another. Although eye disorders and loss of vision can affect people throughout their lives, the prevalence of vision loss is likely to grow as you age. A recent report from Prevent Blindness America puts the economic burden of eye disorders and vision loss in the U.S. at $139 billion. That’s why access to low vision resources—such as low vision devices and vision rehabilitation services—is so important to individuals 60+ who are struggling to see and to maintain an independent lifestyle.

I recently heard Dr. Michael Fischer, Chief of Optometry Service at Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center, speak at Prevent Blindness’ Washington, DC Focus on Eye Health Summit. In addition to offering background on the problem of low vision in the U.S., he offered key points that he calls the “Four A’s of Low Vision: Access, Awareness, Availability and Acceptance.”

A few facts first: The U.S. has an aging population. By the year 2020, there will be close to 90 million people in the U.S. 65 years of age or older.

  • Age-related macular degeneration is the #1 cause of vision impairment in people 55+ in U.S.;
  • Diabetic retinopathy is the #1 cause of vision impairment in the working age U.S. population
    • 25.8M people in the U.S. have diabetes and another estimated 7M are undiagnosed;
    • Of people 40+, 2.9M have some degree of vision impairment, not including blindness.

Recognizing the symptoms of low vision early and taking the proper actions may help preserve sight and in some cases, can lessen the advance of low vision.

Dr. Fischer highlighted four reasons specifically that are challenges for low vision sufferers.

Access—Low vision progresses slowly. The ultimate goal for low vision patients and their doctors is to detect low vision early in order to maintain remaining sight and prevent further deterioration in vision. Scheduling a regular visit to an eye care provider is an important step in maintaining eye health. If you know someone who needs transportation to or from the eye exam, help him/her find a way to get there. Second, who’s going to pay/cover services? Medicare doesn’t cover all vision care; however, it does cover certain types of therapy including vision rehabilitation. Having access to an eye care provider or vision rehabilitation specialist will help restore and maintain the independence that is so important to older individuals today.

Awareness— Eye care providers don’t always spend time on a low vision assessment. It is important for individuals to explain any vision changes to their eye care provider and to ask for a low vision assessment if their symptoms are representative of low vision. Look out for elderly family, friends and neighbors who might be experiencing some of the signs of low vision and help them know that low vision exams exist and can help them with their vision concerns.

Availability— Not every eye care provider is a low vision specialist. Eye care providers will be able to recognize low vision symptoms, and if they are not able to do an assessment, they should be able to refer their patients to a specialist. Signs of low vision are broader than presbyopia (the need for reading glasses in order to focus on near objects) and include:

  • Areas of blurred or distorted vision or spots and blotches in vision
  • Shadowed or darkened field of view or noticeable loss of peripheral vision
  • A gradual loss of central vision
  • Cloudy and blurred vision or exaggerated “halos” around bright lights
  • Blind spots in your field of view

Acceptance–It is difficult for a person of any age to admit that his or her vision is deteriorating. Eye patients are often looking for a “cure” for their low vision—such as a stronger glasses prescription or a medical solution. Low vision patients need the appropriate counsel and the comfort of knowing that with vision rehabilitation and low vision devices, most people can remain independent for many years.

To get started on the search for a low vision specialist, start here on by clicking on ‘Find a Low Vision Specialist.’


May is Healthy Vision Month

Posted on: May 10th, 2013 by lowvision

Your eyes are the windows to your health. Did you know that your eye care professional—through an eye exam— can observe blood vessels that show whether or not someone has diabetes, high blood pressure or small blood clots, has heart disease, might have had a stroke, and even some signs of some types of cancer?

This is why a comprehensive eye exam is important when you discover changes in your vision. If you are over the age of 60, an eye exam can help to determine the cause of your low vision. Low vision is a big problem with little awareness—currently, more than 2.9 million Americans suffer from low vision; it is most prevalent in people age 60+.

Low vision is a condition often coupled with a diagnosis of an aging eye disease—such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, cataracts –or other systemic and neurological diseases. With early diagnosis and treatment, many cases of low vision can be tremendously slowed or stopped in their tracks.

Individuals, their family, and friends should take notice when any vision loss begins to interfere with activities of daily living (ADLs)—cooking, driving, recognizing faces. Or if these individuals stop participating in a hobby—reading, knitting, crosswords—that they once loved due to a lowered ability caused by progressive loss of vision.

Whatever the level of decline, individuals with low vision can be helped to make the most use of their remaining vision, which leads to improving their quality of life, increased socialization, and even prolonged life span through vision rehabilitation and use of low vision devices (hi tech magnifiers).

So take some time during the month of May to evaluate your vision. If you find that it is changing, schedule an eye exam—your health depends on it.

For more information on Healthy Vision Month, dilated eye exams, or the National Eye Institute, visit