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WHAT IS LOW VISION?
Of all disabilities, visual disability or low vision is perhaps the most misunderstood. People tend to think of it as “all or nothing” – either you are fully sighted, or totally blind with no in between. In fact, just like other forms of disability, low vision or partial loss of vision is very much the rule rather than the exception.
Low vision exists when your eyesight is permanently reduced to such a level that everyday visual tasks such as reading, writing or watching television become difficult to perform.
Often when you have low vision, ordinary spectacles do not correct your vision beyond a certain level and a more specialized low vision assessment is required
WHAT CAUSES LOW VISION?
Some eye conditions are present from birth while others are acquired later in life through disease or accident. Some of the more common causes are macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa and albinism. There are many other eye conditions which can cause poor eyesight. By making an appointment with an optometrist who has a special interest in low vision, you will have the opportunity to learn how to use your remaining eyesight more efficiently
IS THE LOW VISION ASSESSMENT DIFFERENT?
The low vision assessment is different to a regular eye examination as it is performed by an optometrist specially trained in the field of low vision. One of the differences is the use of specially designed low vision testing charts which have larger letters and are used at distances closer than the usual 6 meter testing distance in order to improve accuracy of the results. These results are used as a starting point to calculate the levels of magnification required to magnify into your remaining areas of vision
HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE APPOINTMENT?
It will be helpful if you think about specific problems you are having at home, work or school because of your poor vision. This may include difficulties with one or more of the following:
· reading books, prices, menus, medication etc
· watching TV
· seeing the computer screen
· getting around in familiar / unfamiliar environments
· playing cards
· recreational activities
· viewing the backboard
Some of these problems may not be helped by the options available, but we won’t know if you don’t tell us. Think about those things that you would like to see better and write them down or have someone write them down for you, as often they are forgotten once you step into the consulting room.
The assessment generally takes one to one and a half hours, so make sure you schedule enough time. Try to schedule your appointment around a time when your vision is relatively stable especially if you are on medication
WHAT TO BRING TO THE APPOINTMENT?
Bring any spectacles or magnifying glasses you are presently using. If you have any special materials (forms, books, needlework, etc.) you want to work with, please bring them to the assessment as well as this not only gives the examiner an idea of what you would like to be able to see, but also gives you the opportunity to see if the low vision device works! This is particularly important for materials you use at work, school or for those hobbies that you might want to pursue
WOULD I SAVE MY EYESIGHT IF I STOPPED READING?
It was once thought that you should stop using your eyes in order to save your remaining eyesight, in case it should get worse or even disappear entirely. We now know that this is not so. Vision cannot be worn out by use. In fact, the contrary is true. The more you use your eyesight, the stronger the pathways between the eye and the brain and the “better” you will see
IS VISUAL LOSS A NORMAL PART OF AGEING?
There is a tendency to accept vision loss as a normal part of the aging process and thus many people do not seek appropriate eye care or rehabilitative services.
We all experience changes in vision as we age. These changes are physiological and typically can be corrected with ordinary prescription spectacles and do not result in functional limitations. However sometimes pathological changes occur in the eye which need treatment. These changes can be detected by regular visits to your eye care practitioner. Early intervention can save your eye sight especially in conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy
WHAT CAN FAMILY MEMBERS DO TO HELP?
It is most helpful if family members are supportive and understanding of the grieving process associated with loss of vision. It is natural for you to have feelings of anger, fear, bargaining or even depression until you reach the stage of acceptance. Sharing information on how you feel and what you can and cannot see or do helps both you and your family to understand and cope with the challenges you are facing
HOW CAN I BE MOTIVATED?
Almost everything in life can be achieved if you have the right attitude so focus on what you can do rather than on what you can’t do. A really motivated and determined person, with a positive attitude and with faith in himself/herself can achieve anything they put their mind on, no matter how tough the challenge is. Adapting to your low vision and accepting the changes is part of the low vision rehabilitation process