Vision plays a key role in our ability to maintain our independence, learning and allowing us to safely navigate our environment. Low vision affects nearly 36 out of every 10,000 Canadians. Vision loss can therefore have a profound impact on those directly affected and their caregivers. The month of February has been dedicated to raising awareness of low vision, so patients and families can better understand low vision, the risk factors and causes, and ways to cope and treat low vision. We hope those of you affected by low vision are getting the assistance and support you need.
What is low vision?
Low vision is vision loss that can’t be corrected with conventional glasses, contacts, or eye surgery. Low vision can make it difficult to:
- write/sign your name
- be physically active
- recognize faces
- cope in low or bright light conditions
Low Vision and Blindness
In Canada, an individual is considered to be legally blind when they meet either of the following criteria:
- visual acuity (resolution ability) is 20/200 (or 6/60) or less in both eyes after correction
- a visual field of 20 degrees or less
Individuals who are classified as having low vision have a visual acuity between 20/70 and 20/200 after correction with conventional glasses or contact lenses. Therefore, having low vision does not mean legally blind.
Causes And Risks
Low vision can be a result of a wide array of conditions and injuries. The most common eye conditions that cause low vision include:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of adult blindness
- Cataracts (the most common cause of correctable vision loss)
- Diabetic retinopathy (can result in gradual and sudden vision loss)
- Glaucoma (a.k.a. the silent thief of vision)
In a 2006 study looking at the prevalence of low vision and blindness in Canada, it was found that cataract and visual pathway disease were the most common causes of vision loss, accounting for 40% of vision impairment, followed by age-related macular degenaration (AMD).
- Given that the most common causes of low vision are conditions that are age related (such as AMD and cataracts), those that at highest risk are adults aged 45 and over.
Diagnosing Low Vision
The most reliable way to diagnose low vision is by having a comprehensive eye exam with an eye care specialist. There are a range of tests to assess visual acuity, depth perception, color perception and peripheral vision. An eye exam is the first step in diagnosing low vision and in assessing what low vision aids are most suitable to support your remaining visual function.
Low Vision Aids & Regaining Independence
If you are living with low vision, you can benefit from visual aids, as well as take certain measures and structure your environment to more safely navigate. These may include, but aren’t limited to:
- magnifiers, either worn, hand-held or video based
- tinted lenses
- telescopic lenses
- adapted lighting
- large print material
- contrast enhancers
- field expanders
Supporting You and Your Vision
Dr. Sciberras is passionate about helping patients living with low vision. If you are having difficulty with your vision, there many aids available to improve your day to day functioning and overall quality of life. Book an eye exam with us today. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you. Your vision matters to us.