What Is Low Vision?
Low vision is a reduced level of vision that cannot be fully corrected with conventional glasses. It is not the same as blindness. Unlike a person who is blind, a person with low vision has some useful sight. However, low vision usually interferes with the performance of daily activities, such as reading or driving. A person with low vision may not recognize images at a distance or be able to differentiate colors of similar tones.
You are legally blind when your best corrected central acuity is less than 20/200 (perfect visual acuity is 20/20) in your better eye, or your side vision is narrowed to 20 degrees or less in your better eye. People who are legally blind may still have some useful vision. If you are legally blind, you may qualify for certain government benefits. It is estimated that approximately 17 percent of people over the age of 65 are either blind or have low vision.
- Difficulty recognizing objects at a distance (street signs or bus signs)
- Difficulty differentiating colors (particularly in the green-blue-violet range)
- Difficulty seeing well up close (reading or cooking)
The symptoms described above may not necessarily mean that you have low vision. However, if you experience one or more of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor for a complete exam. Your eye doctor can tell the difference between normal changes which are common with age and changes caused by eye disease.
Although low vision can occur at any stage in life, it primarily affects the elderly, but is not a natural part of aging. Although most people experience some physiological changes with age (presbyopia), these changes usually do not lead to low vision. Most people develop low vision because of eye diseases. Common causes of low vision, particularly with older adults, include macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. When vision impairment is recognized early, treatment can be more effective, enabling people to maintain as much independence as possible.