Low Vision Glasses

BACKGROUND: Low Vision is a visual impairment unable to be corrected by standard vision treatments such as regular eyeglasses, contact lenses, or optical surgery. It interferes with one's ability to perform simple, everyday tasks.

According to the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, low vision is defined as vision that is 20/70 or worse. A person with low vision is not blind; you are legally blind when your best vision is 20/200 in your better eye.

Blind people may be able to make out very limited vision but less than those declared to have low vision. People with low vision may not recognize images from a distance or differentiate between colors in the same color range.

Nationally, there are about 13 million people with low vision, according to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The World Health Organization estimates that number to be 124 million worldwide and expects it to double by 2020.

Low vision often develops because of eye diseases, which are typically found in older generations. Common causes of low vision in the elderly include macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, according to the Kellogg Eye Center.

When caught early, vision impairment is more treatable. The Kellogg Center estimates that approximately 17 percent of people over the age of 65 are either blind or have low vision.

SYMPTOMS: Warning signs to look out for include trouble reading, cooking, or sewing, trouble seeing because lights don't seem as bright as usual, trouble recognizing familiar faces, and trouble crossing the street or reading street signs.

If you have symptoms, experts recommend you see your eye doctor. Tests for low vision are more complex and time-consuming than your typical examination.

Low vision tests may include refraction to assess your vision and determine the prescription for your glasses. To assess your peripheral vision, your doctor will conduct a visual field test. He or she may use ocular motility to assess how well your eyes move.

TREATMENT: Jeffrey Sonsino, O.D., an optometrist from the Vanderbilt Eye Institute in Nashville, Tenn., has implemented new technological methods to make reading possible for low vision patients.

He recommends patients buy a goose neck lamp, use high-powered reading glasses, and select a designated reading spot. He believed the existing reading glasses were too pricey and bulky and did not provide illumination.

He created illuminated low vision glasses. These glasses have a built-in, high-powered LED light in the frame of the glasses. The lenses are magnifying and have prism correction. They will be inexpensive, convenient to carry and will be available without prescriptions.

For More Information, Contact: Craig Boerner, Media Relations Vanderbilt University Medical Center Nashville, TN Craig.boerner@vanderbilt.edu

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