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By Dr. Anwi Etame

Low vision describes levels of reduced vision that can result from many different ocular and neurologic disorders. Patients with low vision range from partially sighted to legally blind. More than two-thirds of patients with low vision are over 65.

Early detection is key

The most common causes of low vision in the U.S. include age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. While advances in treatments have helped reduce or stabilize vision loss, routine dilated eye exams are still the best way to prevent low vision. Routine eye exams lead to early detection and treatment before some vision is lost. When a need for treatment is discovered, there are resources and special devices to help.

Living with low vision

Iowa Department for the Blind and the Illinois Department of Human Services both provide rehabilitation services for low vision. The purpose of rehabilitation teaches individuals how best to use the vision that remains and can provide practical help for daily activities as soon as the functional difficulties are identified.

ESA carries vision enhancement devices to help people with low to moderate vision loss (20/200 or better) perform many of their daily activities. Slip over contrast glasses can help while driving. Hand held magnifiers, portable electronic magnifiers, and clip-on magnifiers for glasses help with reading things like menus, price tags, and event programs. A good magnifier may allow continuous reading of text and more intense detail with those who have moderate vision loss. For home, a closed circuit TV is great for reading the newspaper, magazines, recipes and books. LED lighting provides long-lasting, bright white light for improved contrast while doing any kind of close up work. Large print books and playing cards and audio books are great options.

Most eye care focuses on the prevention and treatment of eye diseases, while rehabilitation of low vision patients focuses on the consequences. When nothing more can be done to treat the underlying condition, techniques to maximize the use of residual vision, as well as training in adaptations for activities of daily living, can enhance an individual’s life. Many conditions that result in low vision are progressive; therefore, periodic comprehensive eye examinations are still appropriate to monitor and prevent further vision loss when possible.

Dr. Anwi Etame is an Optometrist at Eye Surgeons Associates Rock Island office.

The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.

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