The Lantern - News about Lighthouse

The Impact of Low Vision

Tue, 19 Feb 2013 by Perry Athanason

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Dear Lighthouse “Lantern” readers – as we continue to raise the awareness of Low Vision and Vision Rehabilitation Services, we thought we would share with you some more news about Low Vision, what to do about it and a recent article involving elderly people with low vision and how it persuades their choice of isolation. This is EXACTLY what we want to Prevent!!! We feel that isolation and vision loss SHOULD NOT go hand-in-hand, and that we ARE NOT forced to live in isolation when living with vision loss. You have options and Lighthouse Central Florida can help you, as it has helped thousands of Central Floridians, adapt to independent life with vision loss.

If you have any questions about low vision, vision loss or vision rehabilitation services available to you in Central Florida, please do not hesitate to contact us at 407-898-2483!


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The Impact of Low Vision
Children as well as adults can be visually impaired, sometimes because of a birth defect or an injury. Children with low vision may have problems in learning concepts, and they need special instruction from their earliest years on. They also need additional help with socialization among other children and adults.

But low vision more commonly affects adults and seniors. Their vision loss can be very traumatic, leading to frustration and depression. Losing the ability to drive safely, read quickly, watch television or view a computer screen can cause people with low vision to feel shut off from the world. They may be unable to get around town independently or shop for food and other necessities.

Many people with low vision also have difficulty making a living, as the following statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey of 2010 illustrate:

• In 2010 the employment rate for visually disabled Americans ages 21-64 (working age) was only 37.2 percent. The full-time/full-year employment rate was 24 percent. And of those without a job, only 13.5 percent were actively looking for work.
• The median annual income of households including any working-age visually disabled person was $33,400, versus $59,400 for households with no disabled people of working age.
• Individual poverty rates were 29.5 percent for visually disabled people vs. 11.9 percent of those with no disability.

Some visually impaired people become very dependent on friends and relatives, while others suffer alone. That's a shame, because many ingenious low vision devices are available to help people overcome vision impairment and live independently.

What To Do About Low Vision
If you have a vision impairment that interferes with your ability to perform everyday activities and enjoy life, your first step is to see an eye care professional for a complete eye exam.

Poor vision that cannot be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses could be the first sign of a serious eye disease such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma or retinitis pigmentosa. Or it could mean you are developing a cataract that needs removal. Whatever the case, it's wise to take action before further vision loss occurs.

If your eye doctor finds that you have vision loss that cannot be corrected adequately with standard eyewear, medical treatment or surgery, he or she will help you take the next steps toward coping with your new situation.

An eye doctor who doesn't work in the low vision arena would refer you to a low vision specialist. A low vision specialist can evaluate the degree and type of vision loss you have, prescribe appropriate low vision aids such as lighted handheld magnifiers, digital desktop magnifiers and bioptic telescopes, and help you learn how to use them.

Newer options include handheld digital magnifiers for shopping or eating out, as well as software that simplifies computer use with magnification and text-to-speech features.

The low vision specialist also can recommend non-optical adaptive devices, such as large-face printed material, audio recordings, special light fixtures and signature guides for signing checks and documents. Special eyewear with tinted UV filters can help with light sensitivity and heighten contrast.

If necessary, your specialist or eye doctor also can refer you to a mental health professional and/or mobility coach to help you cope with your vision loss.

Fear of Falling Among Visually Impaired Elderly People Can Cause Isolation
December 2012 — A fear of falling can lead to a sedentary, lonely life for many seniors who don't see well.

A study found that 40 to 50 percent of older people with vision-impairing eye diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and Fuchs' corneal dystrophy have this fear and limit their activities because of it.

In the study of 345 patients, those with the fear of falling tended to be older females with worse vision and were more likely to be depressed. They also tended to have additional diseases or conditions.

"It is important to know more about which activities are being limited due to fear of falling," said researcher Ellen E. Freeman, PhD, Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Montreal. "We can then develop and test interventions to help people feel more confident about their ability to safely do those activities."

A report of the study appeared in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.