You are not alone! Nearly 12 million Americans have vision loss preventing them from seeing properly. Sometimes the most accurate eyeglasses or contact lenses are not always enough. Although the loss of vision is a very significant problem, there is often help available. With low vision care, many of those with a visual impairment are able to resume their daily activities, drive, and maintain their independence.
Low vision is an optometric specialty dealing with the examination and optical treatment of patients with significant vision loss. Many patients with vision loss cannot achieve their full potential with ordinary eyeglasses. Low vision telescopes, microscopic lenses, magnifiers, electro-optical systems and other optical devices are used to enhance sight by magnifying the image on the retina of patients with partial sight. The right device can improve vision.
Generally the loss of vision happens slowly. Your eyeglasses or contact lenses don’t seem strong enough. You find yourself straining to see things. A stronger prescription doesn’t help. Loss of vision effects an estimated three million Americans each year. If you notice these symptoms, a comprehensive low vision examination is necessary. There are many causes of vision loss including genetics, accidents, disease and deterioration. Each of these can damage the eyes or other parts of the visual system.
The process begins with a comprehensive eye examination by Dr. Politzer or Dr. Kasper. During the exam, we will gather information regarding your eye health, visual status and the need for low vision care. If you are a candidate, a low vision evaluation will be scheduled.
In the low vision evaluation, your specific needs and goals are reviewed in depth. A variety of optical devices will be evaluated to assist in obtaining your needs and goals. High power reading glasses (microscopes), distance magnification systems (telescopes), hybrid devices (telemicroscopes), magnifiers, special filters, and electro-optical systems will be evaluated.
Your key to success is not only having the right optical devices. Equally important is the training in the use of your prescribed low vision devices. The greater your needs, the greater the training required.
Low vision care helps people who have suffered a partial loss of sight. It is often a loss of visual acuity (clarity of sight), but may also be a loss of peripheral or extreme difficulty with light or glare. A visual impairment exists when functional vision cannot be adequately corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, medications, or surgery. Low vision services do not cure the cause of vision loss, but can help maximize the remaining vision to its fullest potential. Low vision care does not replace the need for other treatments such as surgery or medical care.
Common causes of low vision include:
> Macular Degeneration
> Inoperable Cataract
> Vision loss from stroke, head injury, or tumor
> Retinities Pigmentosa
> Histoplasmosis and Toxoplasmosis
> Diabetic Retinopathy
Telescopes are used to help distance vision. They may be mounted to a spectacle prescription so the patient can alternate vision from the telescope to the carrier (regular portion) of the lens. Telescopes provide magnification for improved detailed vision, but reduce peripheral field of vision. They are used as spotting devices and are not intended for full time continuous vision.
Microscopes are used to help near vision. They provide magnification and a relatively large field of view. They are worn like glasses and do not rely on hand/arm strength or dexterity. They require a very close working distance to the object of regard, sometimes just a couple of inches.
Magnifiers are used to help mid-range and near vision. They may be stand mounted, hand held or a combination. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes and weights. Some are available with lighting built in. They give less magnification and have a smaller field of view than microscopes, but have longer (near normal) working distance.
Electro-optical systems are used to help reading. They are stand or tabletop mounted. Reading material is placed on a slide, which goes under a scanner that magnifies the image onto a monitor. They provide excellent magnification, contrast and working distance, but are fixed (non-mobile) and have a relatively small field of image view.
Millions of patients suffer from vision loss related to macular degeneration. Most are seniors over the age of 70. Today, we have many ways to help patients continue to live independent and productive lives. We can help them read, watch TV, do household activities and in some cases continue to drive.
Macular degeneration is a disruption of the center spot of the retina, called the macula. The macula, smaller than a capital A, contains a concentrated layer of light sensitive cells called cones. It is the only area in the eye capable of 20/20 vision.
It allows us to see faces, and to read and perform other fine vision tasks. Macular degeneration is the single largest cause of legal blindness in patients over 55 years of age. Juvenile forms of macular degeneration or dystrophies include Stargardt’s Disease and Best’s Disease.
Most patients suffer from age related macular degeneration. Nearly 6% of people between age 65 and 74 have macular degeneration, and roughly 20% have macular degeneration between the ages of 75 and 84. There are two types of age related macular degeneration. They are often referred to as wet (neovascular) or dry (atrophic) macular degeneration.
Wet macular degeneration may result in more severe loss of vision but in its progression may be slowed with laser treatments if detected early. Dry degeneration is more common accounting for nearly 90% of age related macular degeneration. There is no proven cure of dry macular degeneration.
Nutritional therapies, electro-stimulation, medications, surgeries to relocate the macula, and implantation of electronic chips are all under study at this time. None are yet proven but many hold hope for future treatment of this disease. Macular degeneration may result in a constellation of visual problems. Click here to learn more about the nature of the visual problems with macular degeneration.