Low Vision

Low vision refers to vision impairment that interferes with a persons ability to perform everyday activities. Also persons with low vision do not benefit from standard glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery to correct the condition. Understandably many people with low vision feel great frustration when ordinary vision correction is unable to help their vision problems. In addition, many people are unaware that help is available. There specialized optical aids (telescopes, microscopes, and other magnification devices) available, large print and talking media, and counseling and individualized instruction. These aids allow persons affected by low vision to live fuller, more productive, and enjoyable lives.

Causes of low vision most commonly result from one of a number of different eye diseases. In some cases if these diseases are diagnosed early, the diseases can be treated.

The most diseases associated with causing low vision are:

  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Macular Degeneration

Other causes include:

  • Optic Atrophy – damage to the optic nerve, as a result of birth defect, trauma, or poor circulation, leads to permanent vision loss.
  • Retrolental Fibroplasia (retinopathy of prematurity) – Occurs in infants born prematurely and, in some cases, is caused by high oxygen levels in incubators during the first 10 days of life.
  • Retinal Detachment – Can result in total blindness in the detached area of the affected eye. It involves the retina separating from underlying tissue. Causes are holes in the retina, eye trauma, infection, blood vessel disturbance, or a tumor. Through early diagnosis, most detached retinas can be surgically re-attached with partial restoration of vision.

Low Vision Treatment

Talk with your doctor about vision problems. Be sure that your optometric physician specializes in low vision care, or works with other doctors who do. Even though talking about your vision condition may be difficult, ask for help. 


Some examples of devices and treatments used to help restore vision and improve quality of life include:

  • Spectacle-mounted magnifiers – A magnifying lens is mounted in the individual's spectacles or on a special headband. This allows use of both hands to complete the close-up task, such as reading.
  • Spectacle-mounted telescopes – These miniature telescopes are useful for seeing longer distances, such as across the room to watch television, and can also be modified for near tasks like reading.
  • Hand-held and stand magnifiers – Serve as supplementary aids. They are convenient for reading such things as price tags, labels, and instrument dials. Both types can be equipped with lights.
  • Electro-optical aids – Closed-circuit television (also called CCTVs) enlarge reading material on a video screen. Some are portable, while some can be connected to a computer. The user can adjust the image brightness, size, contrast, and background illumination.

There are a wide variety of devices that help people make the most of their remaining vision.

State-of-the-art-devices can enlarge reading materials on a video screen.

Photos may also be viewed on the video screen.

Remember there are numerous products to assist those with low vision, such as large-type books, magazines, and newspapers, books-on-tape, talking wristwatches, talking blood glucose meters, and self-threading needles. A low vision specialist or visual rehabilitation specialist works personally with individuals to recommend ways to improve their unique situation.