Low Vision

Low Vision

Man using a digital magnifier to read sheet music

Low vision describes vision that is poor due to a cause that cannot be corrected with glasses, contacts, surgery, or medicine. Loss of vision can greatly impact quality of life, but there are many advances in technology that allow those with reduced vision to function independently. 

What is low vision?

Low vision occurs when a person has limited visual acuity, often 20/70 or worse in the better seeing eye, that cannot be corrected with corrective lenses, medicine, or surgery. This may be described as blurry vision, loss of central vision, loss of peripheral vision, blind spots, or inability to see in low light. Low vision may prevent you from being able to read, drive, or care for yourself independently. According to The Vision Council, 1 in 28 Americans age 40 and above have low vision, and this trend will continue to increase over the next 20 years as 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day.

What causes low vision?

Low vision can have a number of causes. Some of the most common causes are:

  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Glaucoma
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Eye injury
  • Stroke
  • Genetic disorders

What steps can I take to prevent low vision?

  • Eye Exams: The best way to keep your eyes healthy is by having an eye exam annually, or as recommended by your eye doctor. Conditions that cause loss of vision often have early signs that can be treated or controlled with medication or surgery if caught soon enough.
  • Diet and exercise:  Following a healthy diet can help to protect your eyes. If you are diabetic, you should have an annual diabetic eye exam and work with your primary care doctor to keep your blood sugar controlled. 
  • Don’t smoke: Smoking is associated with conditions that can cause eye problems. If you smoke, quit. Resources to help you quit smoking can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/
  • Wear safety glasses: Prevent eye injury by wearing safety glasses when you are in an environment where eye injury is a possibility. When ordering new glasses, be sure to ask for impact resistant lenses to keep your eyes safe at all times. 
  • Avoid UV: Wear glasses and sunglasses that block 100% of UV. UV damage is associated with an increased risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

What are the options for someone living with low vision?

There are many options available to help those with low vision. The best way to learn about these resources is by meeting with an occupational therapist. These specialists will evaluate your vision loss and recommend tools and tips to help make your daily activities easier. Some of the most common low vision aids are:

  • Magnifiers-these are available in a variety of powers and sizes. They may be handheld or carried on a stand. They often incorporate a light to increase illumination of viewing objects. 
  • Telescopes-Telescoping lenses can be incorporated onto eyeglass lenses to help with distance vision. 
  • Video magnifier-These magnifiers project magnified reading material on a digital screen. 
  • Audiobooks-These “books on tape” can be downloaded for free from many libraries. 

Those living with low vision can still live life independently. To learn more about coping with low vision, set up an appointment with our Occupational Therapist at (907) 328-2920, or follow this link for a list of eye health organizations.


The Vision Council: Vision Loss in America https://www.thevisioncouncil.org/sites/default/files/VC_LowVision_Report2015.pdf

National Academy of Health National Eye Institute: Low Vision https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/low-vision


“File:Small CCTV reader for low vision users.jpg” by MuseScore is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Written By: Gina Stafford COA, LDO, ABOC

Posted in: Alaska Ophthalmology, Eye Doctor in Alaska, Eye Health Guide

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