Low Vision is Not ‘No Vision’

Dr. Russel Lazarus, June 13, 2021

Did you know that you can still see with low vision?

Low vision is not ‘no vision.’ This just means that part of your vision is compromised and often a walking cane and seeing-eye dog or other devices can allow you to still enjoy life.

Below you’ll learn about how having low vision still means you can enjoy doing everyday activities, such as reading.

If you have been told you have ‘low vision’, contact an eye doctor near you who can evaluate your vision and discuss the best devices for you.

SEE RELATED: Diagnosed with Low Vision – What To Do Next?

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What is Low Vision?

It can be confusing to hear the words “visual impairment,” “low vision,” or “blindness” from your eye doctor. The more you understand these terms, the more you’ll be able to advocate for yourself or a loved one who has a visual impairment.

Visual impairment – is an umbrella term that describes any type of vision loss. The words used to describe types of visual impairment are listed below:

Low vision – visual acuity of 20/70 or poorer in the better-seeing eye, that can’t be improved any further with glasses or contacts.

Legally blind – corrected vision of 20/200 in the better-seeing eye, even with glasses contacts or surgery. A person is not considered legally blind if visual aids such as eyeglasses can correct a person’s vision to 20/200 or better.

Totally blind – a complete loss of functional sight due to a genetic condition, disease or injury.

Partial vision – The ability to see through only part of their visual field, or have adequate  central vision but poor peripheral vision. This is most common due to a brain tumor, brain injury or an eye disease.

Does low vision mean blindness?

No. Low vision is vision loss that can’t be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or surgery. However, it’s not considered blindness, as some sight remains. A person with low vision mau only experience one or more of: blurry sight, blind sports, or poor night vision.

Common types of low vision

1. Loss of central vision

With loss of central vision, a person’s side (peripheral) vision remains mainly unaffected.

Loss of central vision results in a blur or blind spot in the center of what you are looking at. This makes reading, recognizing faces, and distinguishing most features in the distance difficult.

Mobility, on the other hand, is still possible as the person has usable side vision.

2. Loss of peripheral (side) vision

With loss of peripheral vision, the central vision that remains allows the person to see directly ahead, read, watch TV and see faces.

People who lose their peripheral vision cannot distinguish objects in one or both sides, or items directly above and/or below eye level. Loss of peripheral vision typically affects mobility.

In severe cases, this can slow reading speed as the person can only see a few words at a time.

This is referred to as tunnel vision and can be caused by glaucoma or brain tumor or injury.

3. Blurred vision

Even with the highest possible correction using eyeglasses, blurred vision causes both near and far vision to be out of focus.

This is often caused by macular degeneration, cataract or diabetic edema.

4. Reduced contrast sensitivity

People who lose their contrast sensitivity lose their vision quality. They have the feeling that there is a general haze with a filmy or cloudy appearance.

5. Glare light sensitivity

This happens when a person’s visual system is overwhelmed by normal amounts of light, resulting in a washed-out image and/or glare. Extreme light sensitivity can cause pain or discomfort even when exposed to normal amounts of light.

6. Night blindness

Night blindness prevents people from seeing outside at night or in dimly lit indoor spaces such as restaurants or movie theaters.

Low vision devices

A variety of treatment options of devices help people with low vision live and work independently, and can vastly improve the quality of life. Most people with low vision can benefit from one or more treatment options.

The most commonly prescribed devices include:

  • Canes and seeing-eye dogs
  • Glasses-mounted magnifiers
  • Handheld or glasses-mounted telescopes
  • Handheld and stand magnifiers
  • Electronic (video) magnification
  • Assistive technology – such as screen readers/speech output and software enlargement programs.

Other products that can assist people with vision impairment include large-type books, magazines, and newspapers, books on tape, talking wristwatches, self-threading needles and more.

All of these devices can help improve your quality of life by improving your low vision.

LEARN MORE:  Guide to Low Vision

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you who can evaluate your vision and recommend the right low vision device for you.