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Living With Low Vision

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Low vision describes a set of conditions in which there is significant visual impairment which can not be corrected with traditional means such as glasses, contact lenses, medication or eye surgery.   Low vision includes a loss of visual acuity which can’t be corrected to better than 20/70, significant visual field loss such as tunnel vision or blind spots, legal blindness (20/200 or less visual acuity in the better eye) and almost total blindness.

While it  can affect both children and adults, low vision is most common in the elderly. Since vision is significantly impaired and can’t be corrected the condition requires significant adjustments to daily life. Here are some facts about the condition and tips for coping with it on a daily basis.

What causes low vision? 

  • Eye diseases such as: glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa
  • Eye injury
  • Heredity

How does low vision affect daily life?

While people with low vision are not considered to be totally blind, often the poor quality of their vision makes it incredibly challenging to complete common daily tasks including reading, writing, cooking and housework, watching television, driving or even recognizing people. The adjustment can be especially for those who suddenly lose their vision.

The good news is there are numerous resources and products available to assist individuals with low vision often by enhancing the small amount of vision that is intact.

Visual Aids

Visual aids enable millions of people who suffer from low vision to be able to function and live relatively normal lives, by maximizing their remaining eyesight. An optometrist can do a low vision eye exam and provide specialized glasses or tints to optimize vision, or recommend quality magnifiers with appropriate magnification and working distance.  Full spectrum lighting or magnifiers with an attached light source are often used to aid individuals with low vision. You can also get special lens tints, which are used to enhance contrast and reduce glare, with special coatings for specific conditions.  Other low vision aids act as guides to help the person focus on non-visual cues, such as sound or feel.

Many people unfortunately try a “trial and error” or "dollar store" readers or magnifiers when it comes to vision aids which can lead to frustration. In fact, there is a systematic approach

to finding the right visual aid, which is a matter of consulting with a professional to determine what works for each individual and his daily needs. Speak to your optometrist about the best place to obtain quality, optical and non-optical aids to assist with your low vision.

In Canada, CNIB is a major source of optical and non-optical AIDS. After an exam and diagnosis by an optometrist, he can start the process to access CNIB, and offer follow-up customized support to complement CNIB services. 

If you or a loved one suffers from low vision, here are some ways to make life with low vision easier

  1. Adjust Lighting. Ensure that your home is well lit. This may require some trial and error with different lights and voltages to determine what works best for you.
  2. Use a magnifier. There is a vast selection of magnifiers available, ranging from hand-held to stand magnifiers. Binoculars and spectacle mounted magnifiers are also an option.
  3. Your optometrist or low vision specialist can recommend specialized lens tints for certain conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa or cataracts, which enhance vision or reduce light sensitivity.
  4. Use large print books for reading. Alternatively, try digital recordings or mp3s.
  5. Make use of high contrast for writing. Try writing in large letters with a broad black pen on a white piece of paper or board.
  6. Add a high-contrast stripe on steps (bright color on dark staircase, or black stripe on light stairs) can prevent falls in people with low vision, and may enable those who suffer to remain independent in their home.
  7. Find out what other technology is available to help make your life simpler.

If you or a loved one has low vision, don’t despair. Be sure to consult with your eye doctor about the best course of action to take to simplify life with low vision.

Further Resources:

Thank you for trusting your eyecare with us over the years.  The Foresight Eyecare team follows the government mandate to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  After December 2020 announcements made by the Alberta Government, our clinic is following the revised Infection Prevention and Control policy by the Alberta College of Optometrists.

Patients interested in obtaining eye exam services or eye care products can be seen by appointment only.  Please call ahead, and staff will arrange an appointment time and ask COVID-19 screening questions.  If you have any symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose or shortness of breath, we ask that you call or e-mail us and do not attend the clinic for your scheduled visit.   Within the clinic, please wear a mask and use the hand sanitizer at reception.  Our clinic complies with the City of Calgary bylaw requiring mask covering over the age of two years old.  For patients who are unable to wear a face covering due to medical reasons, the patient can be scheduled for an appointment at a time when minimal number of other patients are in the clinic such as at the beginning or end of the day to ensure appropriate physical distancing requirements.

We are using disposable disinfectant wipes on all surfaces and devices such as front desk counters, chairs, handles in exam rooms and waiting room.  All eyewear that have been touched by patients are continually being sanitized.   Any toys and magazines are stored at this time.  Examination areas are being sanitized with hospital grade disinfectant.  Debit and credit cards but NO CASH payments will be accepted.

COVID-19 symptoms are not always obvious.  We want to fend off this pandemic and minimize risk to our patients and the Foresight staff as front line health workers.   Contact that is closer than 2 m (6 feet) is to be avoided, with barriers in place when this cannot be avoided. We choose to continue to do our work and cautiously take care of our patients with compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience.   It is a challenging and new experience for many of us, so let‘s support each other and prevent virus spread!  Beyond 2020, our focus is on take care of you and keeping Clean Hands, Clear Heads and Open Hearts.   For more information, please refer to the following web pages or phone Health Link 811.

www.albertahealthservices.ca

www.collegeofoptometrists.ab.ca

Drs. Dianna Leong, Anh Bui, Andrew Chan