Posted on Feburary 15th, 2017.
Low vision should not be confused with blindness. Low vision is a condition that cannot be made clear by ordinary eyeglasses, contact lenses, or intraocular lens transplants. Sometimes low vision involves a lack of acuity, meaning that objects do not come into focus. Other times, it involves the inability to distinguish colors, see contrasts, or determine spatial relationships among objects.
WHAT CAUSES LOW VISION?
Low vision has a variety of causes, including eye injury, diseases, and heredity. It is the third most common physical impairment for people over 65 (after heart disease and arthritis). The most common causes of low vision in the older population are due to macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetes. In younger patients the visual impairment is most commonly a result of prematurity, retinal disease, genetics, or various ocular traumas or injuries.
WHAT IS A LOW VISION EXAM?
A low vision examination differs from a so-called “regular eye exam”. The primary distinction of a low vision exam is that it comprehensively evaluates vision functioning and its effects on daily life activities. Dr. Miller evaluates the severity and nature of the vision loss and prescribes special optical devices to maximize remaining vision.
Losing the ability to drive safely, read quickly, and view a television or computer screen easily can cause many people with low vision to become isolated. They feel unable to get around town independently, earn a living, or even shop for the necessities. Some visually impaired people become completely dependent on friends and relatives, while others suffer alone. Total dependence does not have to happen, because there are many ingenious low vision devices and strategies that can help people overcome vision impairment and live independently. The first step is to visit an eye doctor who specializes in low vision care.
Dr. Miller has been performing low vision evaluations for over 20 years and is the consulting low vision specialist for the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She can evaluate the degree and type of vision loss, prescribe appropriate low vision devices such as magnifiers, telescopes, and video magnification. She can also recommend non-optical adaptive devices, such as large print material, audio tapes, special light fixtures, and signature guides. And just as importantly, as a low vision specialist, Dr. Miller can provide referrals to counselors and state organizations that can help visually impaired patients cope with their new life situation.
Attitude is another very important aspect in low vision. If you have low vision, no matter how many doctors you see and devices you try, you cannot be helped unless you really want to be helped. The loss of one’s vision can be a life changing experience to go through. It’s very common to go through a variety of emotions from anger to hopelessness. Finding others with the same problems through support groups is a great help.
Most insurance providers cover about one-half of the low vision evaluation cost. This is considered a medical visit and is not billed through a vision plan. The low vision devices prescribed are generally NOT covered by any insurance company, including Medicare.
If you have low vision, the most important thing to remember is that there is help out there, and you are not alone! Please call us.