Vision impairment, or low vision, means that even with eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery, you don't see well. Vision impairment can range from mild to severe. The leading causes of vision impairment and blindness in the United States are age-related eye diseases: macular degeneration, cataract and glaucoma. Other eye disorders, eye injuries and birth defects can also cause vision loss.
A loss of vision means that you may have to reorganize your life and learn new ways of doing things. If you have some vision, visual aids such as special glasses and large print books can make life easier. There are also devices to help those with no vision, like text-reading software and braille books.
Sometimes, vision loss is preventable. Regular comprehensive eye exams and prompt treatment are critical.
There are many signs that can signal vision loss. For example, even with your regular glasses, do you have difficulty:
- Recognizing faces of friends and relatives?
- Doing things that require you to see well up close, like reading, cooking, sewing, or fixing things around the house?
- Having difficulty with picking out and matching the color of your clothes?
- Doing things at work or home because lights seem dimmer than they used to?
- Reading street and bus signs or the names of stores?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, vision changes like these could be early warning signs of eye disease. Regular eye exams should be part of your routine health care. However, if you believe your vision has recently changed, you should see your eye care professional as soon as possible. Usually, the earlier your problem is diagnosed, the better the chance of keeping your remaining vision.
Seeing a Doctor
If you have any signs of vision loss it is important to see a doctor to determine the cause. Your doctor may perform a variety of tests, but many times the source for vision loss can be determined simply from looking closely at the eye.
Once your doctor has determined the cause of your vision loss, here are some questions you may want to ask:
Questions to Ask Your Eye Care Professional
- What changes can I expect in my vision?
- Will my vision loss get worse? How much of my vision will I lose?
- Will regular eyeglasses improve my vision?
- What medical/surgical treatments are available for my condition?
- What can I do to protect or prolong my vision?
- Will diet, exercise, or other lifestyle changes help?
- If my vision can't be corrected, can you refer me to a specialist in low vision?
- Where can I get a low vision examination and evaluation? Where can I get vision rehabilitation?
Questions to Ask Your Specialist in Low Vision
- How can I continue my normal routine activities?
- Are there resources to help me in my job?
- Will any special devices help me with daily activities like reading, sewing, cooking, or fixing things around the house?
- What training and services are available to help me live better and more safely with low vision?
- Where can I find individual or group support to cope with my vision loss?