#Try It Tuesday: Low Vision Awareness Month
February is Low Vision Awareness Month. With people in the United States living longer, eye diseases and vision loss have become major public health concerns. Currently, 4.2 million Americans ages 40 and older are visually impaired. By 2030, when the last baby boomers turn 65, this number is projected to reach 7.2 million.
Many changes to vision are normal and common as you age, but losing sight or going blind is not a normal part of aging.
As we get older, our eyes and vision change. Some of these normal changes include:
- Losing the ability to focus, which makes it harder to perform tasks such as reading, writing, playing cards, and working on the computer.
- Noticing declining contrast and color sensitivity, making it harder to distinguish colors such as blue and black or distinguish where an object ends, and its background begins.
- Needing more light to see well and more time to adjust to changing levels of light.
It’s important to note these changes usually don’t lead to low vision.
What is Low Vision?
Low vision is a visual impairment that is not corrected by standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication, or surgery. Low vision may interfere with the ability to perform everyday activities.
People with low vision may find everyday tasks – like reading, writing, driving, shopping or watching TV – difficult.
What Causes Low Vision?
Some people develop low vision after eye injuries or from birth defects. Most cases of low vision result from eye diseases like macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma or diabetic eye disease.
If these diseases and conditions are diagnosed early, treatment can sometimes prevent or delay vision loss. Although lost vision usually cannot be restored, many people can use vision rehabilitation and adaptive devices to make the most of their remaining vision.
Signs of Low Vision
Many signs can signal vision loss. For example, even when wearing your regular glasses or contact lenses, you may have difficulty with some of the following:
- Recognizing familiar faces.
- Doing things that require you to see well up close, such as reading, cooking, sewing, or fixing things around the house.
- Picking out and matching the color of your clothes.
- Reading street signs, bus signs, or the names of stores.
When to Get an Eye Exam
If you experience any vision changes, you should see your eye care professional as soon as possible. A change in vision could be an early warning sign of eye disease. Early detection, timely treatment, and appropriate follow-up may prevent vision loss or blindness.
Regular comprehensive dilated eye exams should be part of your routine health care. If you are age 50 or older, you should see your eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam, even if you aren’t having any eye problems.
What Can You Do If You Have Low Vision?
Be your best health advocate. Talk with your eye care professional about your vision problems. Ask your eye care professional for a referral to a specialist in low vision who is an ophthalmologist or optometrist trained to evaluate and treat low vision.
- Find out where you can get more information about services and devices that can help you to maintain your independence.
- Different types of vision loss require different types of visual devices and training in how to use them.
- Ask about vision rehabilitation.
Remember, rehabilitation programs, devices, and technology can help you adapt to vision loss. They may help you keep doing many of the things you did before. Your family and friends can provide support. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Work in partnership with your eye care specialists to achieve what is best for you.