Archive for the ‘Treatments’ Category

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?

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.’


Sunglasses and Macular Degeneration

Posted on: June 21st, 2013 by lowvision

Summer is underway, and that means people are starting to think about sunglasses and UV (although really, you should think about it year-round). UV radiation can cause damage to the cells of the retina, and too much light can actually reduce your ability to see properly, especially in sunlight. Sunglasses protect the cells of the macula from being damaged by UV radiation. But darker does not mean better. The darkness of sunglasses does not protect the eyes from the ultraviolet radiation. What the darkness does is reduce eye discomfort for those who are very sensitive to the bright light. UV coatings are applied to lenses and are colorless—in fact, standard glasses and even goggles very often have UV protection. The tint of sunglasses provides comfort; the UV coating provides the protection.

The amount of light needed by each individual to see differs, and the use of sunglasses that are too dark can actually contribute to unnecessary distraction and falls. Many people with macular degeneration have not been prescribed specialized sunglasses by their eye doctors. This means that their vision is not being used to its greatest potential AND their eyes are not as protected as thy should be.

When in doubt, ask, right? To find out about lens options and tints available for your specific low vision situation, ask your eye care professional. Prescription sunwear is available in all different shapes, sizes, and fashions. If prescription sunwear is not for you, there are even sunglasses that you can fit over your regular eyeglasses.

Many people with macular degeneration have reduced color vision and reduced contrast vision. The use of yellow, amber, and brown lenses can improve contrast vision and make it easier to see, especially in bright light—natural light or light that comes from bulbs.

Light sensitivity is also prevalent in people with aging eye diseases, particularly macular degeneration. This is because the macular cells regulate how the eyes adapt to various lighting conditions. When the macular cells are damaged, being in bright sunlight can be uncomfortable. Eyeglass frames that block the light from the top, bottom, and sides will reduce the discomfort of the eyes. Low vision eye care specialists will often use a grey, plum, green, or blue lens to reduce the glare discomfort and some of these lenses may be coated with a mirror to reduce the amount of light that enters the eyes.

So, no matter how your vision has been affected, there is a sunwear option to fit your needs—and allow for more comfort in sunlight…or light of any kind.

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


Welcome to the launch of the Low Vision Blog

Posted on: December 11th, 2012 by lowvision

Welcome to our low vision blog! We hope to bring you accounts of people living with low vision, their strategies, coping mechanisms and success stories. Although low vision cannot be reversed, with healthy practices and conscious effort, living with low vision can be fulfilling and satisfying. You can regain independence and confidence that you may have lost with your diagnosis.

Enjoy this website! If you or someone you care for has a story about living with low vision, please share it with us.

Wishing you well,

Erin Hildreth
The Vision Council