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Access World: February is Low Vision Awareness Month (Blog)

February 19, 2021
Source: American Foundation of the Blind (AFB)

Dear AccessWorld readers,

"What exactly is low vision?" you may ask. Low vision is a term commonly used to mean partial sight, or sight that isn’t fully correctable with surgery, medications, contact lenses, or glasses. In the United States, the most common causes of low vision are age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. People can also be born with conditions such as albinism or optic nerve damage that can result in low vision. Low vision can have an impact on people of all ages.

Magnification devices, electronic devices, computer-access software, and other access and mainstream technologies are used to help people with low vision maximize their remaining vision or learn alternative ways to do things, such as using their sense of touch or their sense of hearing. As our regular readers know, AccessWorld regularly reports on many of these technologies. For additional information on living with low vision, please visit [American Foundation of the Blind] AFB’s VisionAware’s Low Vision resources.

In observance of Low Vision Awareness Month, I encourage everyone to have a complete eye exam from a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist. Getting a yearly exam increases the chances of early detection and diagnosis of conditions that may lead to vision loss. If you or someone you know has experienced significant vision loss, I encourage you to have a low vision examination.

A low vision examination is quite different from the basic examination routinely performed by primary care optometrists and ophthalmologists. A low vision examination includes a review of your visual and medical history, and places an emphasis on the vision needed to read, cook, work, study, travel, and [perform] and enjoy other common activities. The goals of a low vision exam include assessing the functional needs, capabilities, and limitations of your vision, assessing ocular and systemic diseases, and evaluating and prescribing low vision therapies. Education and counseling of family and other care providers; providing an understanding of your visual functioning to aid educators, vocational counselors, employers and care givers; directing further evaluations and treatments by other vision rehabilitation professionals; and making appropriate referrals for medical intervention are all a part of a low vision evaluation.

The low vision examination takes much longer than a typical eye exam, but the information gained can be invaluable. No matter what your visual acuity, it is important to understand any diagnosis you may receive and to keep your eyes as healthy as you possibly can.

Lee Huffman
AccessWorld Editor-in-Chief
American Foundation for the Blind

Related information: National Eye Institute (NEI) Resources

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