Diagnosis & Treatment

Low Vision

Diagnosis & Treatment

Low Vision

What is low vision?

Low vision refers to a person’s inability to see clearly even when wearing corrective lenses such as glasses or contact lenses. A person with low vision isn’t blind, but the level of their vision impairment can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as reading or driving. People of all ages can have low vision, even children.

What causes low vision?

Common causes for low vision include the following:

  • Age-related macular degeneration is a serious eye disease caused by damage to the macula, the part of the retina responsible for sharp, clear central vision. This damage causes blurred central vision and blind spots in the center of the field of view, making it difficult to recognize familiar faces, read, drive, or perform up-close work. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people aged 50 and older
  • Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve over time, leading to blurred or reduced vision. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. People with glaucoma often have no symptoms in the early stages, meaning regular eye exams are critical to catching this disease early before significant vision loss occurs.
  • Retinitis pigmentosa is a genetic disorder that affects the light-sensitive cells in the retina, causing vision loss over time. The most common symptom associated with this condition is night blindness, which means that people have difficulty seeing in low-light conditions or when walking through a dark room. Unfortunately, most individuals with retinitis pigmentosa go blind before the age of 40.
  • Diabetic retinopathy is an eye condition that can cause vision loss or even blindness in people with diabetes. It occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the blood vessels in the retina over time. This damage leads to swelling in the retina—which can cause blurry vision—and can eventually lead to scarring or bleeding that further affects the person’s eyesight. Managing blood sugar levels helps minimize the damage caused by this condition, but laser surgery can also slow its progression.
  • Amblyopia, commonly referred to as lazy eye, is a type of poor vision that typically occurs in one eye. The condition is most often found in children, although adults can develop it as well. If left untreated, amblyopia can result in permanent vision loss in the weakened eye. That is why it is important to schedule regular pediatric eye exams to catch this condition early.
  • Traumatic brain injuries, such as head trauma and strokes, can disrupt the normal functioning of your brain, leading to significant vision loss and issues with depth perception.
  • Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of your eye (the clear part of the eye that helps to focus light). As a cataract develops, it causes blurry or unclear vision. Risk factors include long-term exposure to UV rays without proper eye protection, previous eye injury or surgery, genetics, certain diseases like diabetes and glaucoma, and age (60+). The only way to treat cataracts is surgery, which consists of removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens implant to restore vision.

How is low vision diagnosed?

During a comprehensive eye exam at our office in Portland, Dr. Tracy K. Giles will examine your overall eye health and vision. This includes tests for visual acuity, depth perception and visual field, and lighting. If he finds any issues during the exam, he will work closely with you to develop a treatment plan that fits your individual needs and lifestyle.

Can low vision be treated?

Although low vision cannot be corrected by prescription glasses or surgery, there are ways patients can improve or cope with vision loss. Magnifying devices, increasing contrast, and using large-print reading materials can make daily tasks easier for a person living with low vision. Vision rehabilitation therapists can also help individuals with low vision make the most of their remaining vision.

Permanent or partial loss of vision requires rehab and resources to regain one’s independence. Dr. Giles and his team will recommend rehabilitative services to help you live and work safely and effectively, within the limits of your vision impairment.