February is Low Vision Awareness Month.

Low vision is defined as visual impairments that are not correctable through surgery, pharmaceuticals, glasses or contact lenses.


• 1 in 28 Americans age 40 and above have low vision. This trend will continue to increase over the next 20 years as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day.


Low vision is often caused by eye diseases like:

Cataracts: 20 million Americans

Age-Related Macular Degeneration: 2.07 million Americans

Diabetic Retinopathy: 7.6 million Americans

Glaucoma: 3 million Americans


Comprehensive and Low Vision Eye Exams

Despite cost-effective interventions to prevent vision loss, many individuals do not seek out early detection and timely treatments. During an annual exam, an eye care provider will take a medical and optical history. .


Family history of eye diseases and personal history of eye injury or vision problems will also be discussed. Following an assessment of ocular history, the eye care provider may measure some or all of the following: .

  • Visual acuity using a low vision test chart

  • Contrast sensitivity

  • Visual field (peripheral vision)

  • Depth perception

  • Ocular response to glare

  • Glaucoma test and dilation of the pupils to view of the back of each eye

After a regular eye exam, a patient may be referred to a specialist for a low vision exam. This exam focuses on measurements of functional acuity and offers strategies and therapies to accomplish key goals and activities of daily living. .


Education and counseling for the patient, family and other care providers should be part of the exam process. This helps provide an understanding of the state of the patient’s vision and offers direction for further evaluation and treatment. .


Once diagnosed, the patient may be encouraged to:

  • Develop a care plan to adequately address their needs, including using low vision devices, accessing rehabilitative care and considering all treatment options.

  • Assemble a coordinated care team, including the patient’s primary care physician and the low vision specialist.

Conclusion


The impact of low vision disorders is felt deeply by individuals with severe vision impairments, as well as their communities. More than 39 million Americans have low vision or a disorder that can lead to it. Combined, these impairments cost $68 billion annually in direct health care costs, lost productivity and diminished quality of life.


This burden is expected to increase as the population ages. While low vision and aging eye diseases rob the sight of millions of Americans, they do not need to infringe upon the independence, health and wellbeing or quality of life of people with impairment. Innovations in low vision tools, technology and treatment are providing people with severe vision impairments opportunities to use remaining vision and to delay disease progression.


Regular comprehensive eye exams can help diagnose emerging vision problems before vision loss is noticeable. In addition to accurately diagnosing low vision, a low vision specialist can suggest tools and devices, such as desktop and portable magnifiers, telescopic eyewear and reading systems, to help those with low vision maintain their independence for as long as possible .


Early detection is critical to determine treatment that can slow or in some cases even stop the progression of eye disease associated with aging. .


If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with low vision, talk with your eye care professional about vision rehabilitation. .


Source: The Vision Council

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