Low Vision Devices

What is low vision?

Picture of equipment to assist the visually impaired

Low vision is a condition that involves a minimal ability to see (particularly central vision) that is unresolved or uncorrected with traditional eyeglasses, contact lens, intraocular lens implants, or corrective surgery. However, in some cases, persons with low vision may be aided with special visual devices.

What causes low vision?

There are a variety of different causes of low vision, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • macular degeneration (the most common cause of low vision; involves damage to a person's central vision making it difficult to read, drive, or perform other daily activities that require fine, central vision)
  • aging (Aging is a risk factor for low vision, however, persons of any age may be affected.)
  • congenital defects (present at birth)
  • injury
  • disease (including diabetes)
  • other eye diseases (i.e., glaucoma, cataracts)

What are the different types of low vision?

Although, in most cases, persons with low vision have disabled central vision (also called reading vision), there are other types of low vision which may include the following:

  • disabled or partial peripheral vision
  • disabled or partial color vision
  • disabled or partial ability to adjust to different light settings
  • disabled or partial ability to adjust to different contrasts
  • glared vision

What are low vision devices?

Because low vision cannot be improved by more traditional methods (i.e., the use of eyeglasses, contact lenses, etc.) persons with low vision often rely on the use of a number of different instruments, called low vision devices, and tailored equipment for improved vision. Low vision devices, categorized as either optical or non-optical, help to improve visual ability for millions of people everyday.

What are optical low vision devices?

Simply stated, optical low vision devices involve the use of one of many types of lenses to improve vision. For example:

  • magnifying devices (i.e., magnifying eyeglasses, hand magnifiers, magnifying lamps, telescopic viewing devices, etc.)
  • closed circuit television or CCTV involves enlarged images, exaggerated contrasts, and adjustable magnification

What are non-optical low vision devices?

Picture of a large-scale writing tablet for the visually impaired

Non-optical low vision devices help bring images closer to the eyes. This may include the use of any, or all, of the following:

  • larger print items (i.e., magazines, newspapers, books, calendars, address books, cookbooks, dictionaries, games, playing cards, sheet music, street signs, etc.)
  • larger, illuminated watches and clocks
  • writing guides
  • instruments that provide voice instruction (i.e., computers)
  • instruments that provide voice information (i.e., clocks, timers, calculators, scales, key chains, etc.)

To learn more about low vision and blindness, please visit Lighthouse International. Founded in 1905, Lighthouse International is dedicated to fighting vision loss through prevention, treatment, and empowerment. Physicians ofWeill Cornell Eye Associates work closely with Lighthouse International to treat patients who experience low vision.

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