What is Low Vision?
Sometimes referred to as visual impairment, low vision is the term used to describe vision that cannot be corrected using glasses or contact lenses, or by any medical or surgical treatment. Although this condition can be very debilitating, there is support available that can help patients with low vision to manage their day to day lives.
Causes of low vision
Low vision is much more common in older people due to the prevalence of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD for short. The macula is responsible for central vision, so when problems with it occur, it has a significant effect on our eyesight.
There are two types of AMD. The first is wet AMD which develops very quickly and occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula and leak fluid and blood that causes scarring and vision loss. The second is dry AMD which develops much more slowly as a result of the gradual deterioration of the cells of the macula. Around 10-15% of people with dry AMD will go on to develop the wet version of the condition. If you have dry AMD and you notice a sudden change in your vision, it is crucial that you visit your eye doctor as soon as possible.
In addition to AMD, other eye diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts can also cause low vision. These conditions, like wet AMD, are often treatable, whereas dry AMD is not. Finally, low vision may result from cancer of the eye, a brain injury, or other inherited disorders.
Does low vision affect both eyes?
Although low vision may not necessarily occur at the same rate, it nearly always eventually affects both eyes. If you have low vision in one eye, it is highly likely that your other eye will be effected within three years.
Symptoms of low vision
The symptoms of low vision include some of the same as that experienced by patients suffering from macular degeneration, glaucoma and cataracts.
Colors look faded/washed out
Straight lines appear wobbly
Dark spots in your central vision
Words might disappear when you are reading
Bright lights may be difficult to tolerate
It takes longer to adjust from dark to light environments
It is hard to drive at night
You find it difficult to judge the depth of steps
Poor peripheral vision
Treatment for low vision
Treatment for low vision depends on the underlying eye disease and the severity of the condition.
If your low vision is caused by wet AMD, you may be prescribed injectable medicines that will not only prevent further vision loss, but can also improve your current eyesight.
If your low vision is caused by cataracts, you may be referred for surgery to replace the clouded lens in your eye with a clear, artificial alternative.
If your low vision is caused by glaucoma, any existing vision loss will be irreversible. However, treatment can prevent your eyesight from deteriorating further.
In most instances, patients will be recommended to try low vision aids. Some of these work by making things brighter or enlarging them so you can see more clearly, whilst others will support your other senses to make your day to day life easier.
If you suspect you may have low vision, we recommend that you make an appointment with our expert eye care team immediately. We can assess your vision and help you to find the most appropriate treatment to prevent further loss and help you continue to enjoy your day to day life as easily as possible.
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