Search Menu
Search entire library by keyword
OR
Choose by letter to browse topics
A B C D E F G H I J K LM N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
(A-Z listing includes diseases, conditions, tests and procedures)
 

Low-Vision Devices

Low Vision: What You Need to Know

Woman using a magnifying glass as she reads.

Low Vision: What You Need to Know

  • Low vision is any condition characterized by chronic vision impairment that cannot be corrected using conventional glasses, contact lenses, medical treatment or corrective surgery.

  • Typically, low vision is caused by age-related eye conditions, but vision impairment from an eye condition can occur at any age.

  • Low vision can interfere with daily activities, like reading, watching television, driving or recognizing objects at a distance.

  • Although people with chronic vision loss cannot be treated with traditional methods, a number of special visual devices and adaptation strategies can help improve or maintain the ability to perform daily activities.

Low Vision Definition

Low vision is a condition that involves an impaired ability to see (including loss of central or side vision) that cannot be corrected with traditional eyeglasses, contact lens, medication or surgery. However, in some cases, people with low vision may be aided with special visual devices and visual rehabilitation services.

Low Vision Symptoms

  • Difficulty reading

  • Difficulty recognizing objects at a distance, such as street signs and faces

  • Difficulty differentiating between similar colors

  • Difficulty seeing objects that are close up and directly in front of you

  • Difficulty navigating steps, curbs or uneven surfaces

  • Sensitivity to glare or bright lights

These symptoms are similar to other eye conditions, so it is important to see an eye doctor if you experience one or more of them.

Low Vision Causes

There are a variety of different causes of low vision, including:

  • Age-related macular degeneration : This is the most common cause of low vision. This involves damage to a person’s central vision, making it difficult to read, drive or perform other daily activities that require fine central vision.

  • Congenital defects: conditions present at birth

  • Eye injury or trauma

  • Disease, such as diabetes

  • Other eye diseases, such as glaucoma or cataracts

Types of Low Vision

There are several kinds of low vision:

  • Disabled central vision (the part of your vision used to read)

  • Disabled or partial peripheral (side) 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

  • Sensitivity to glare

Low Vision Exam

On your first visit, the low vision specialist will find out what problems you are having with your vision and suggest ways to help you. Subsequent visits can help to address the problems you still may have.

Low Vision Devices

Low vision cannot be improved by traditional methods, such as the use of eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery. People with low vision often rely on a number of different instruments, called low vision devices. Low vision devices, categorized as either optical or nonoptical, help to improve visual ability for millions of people every day.

  • Optical. Optical low vision devices use lenses to improve vision. These types of devices may include:

    • Magnifying lenses or microscopic systems

    • Telescopic viewing devices

    • Closed-circuit television and alternative video magnification technology using contrast enhancement and adjustable magnification

  • Nonoptical. Nonoptical low vision devices bring images closer to the eyes. These may include:

    • Large-print items, such as books, calendars, bold-lined paper or watches

    • Instruments that provide auditory instruction or speech-output information, such as computers, reading machines, liquid-level indicators, talking clocks or audio books

Low Vision Assistance

Tiffany Chan, O.D., explains low vision — chronic vision impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, medication or even surgery — and how she’s able to help patients with low vision assistance tools.

Find a physician at another Johns Hopkins Member Hospital:
Connect with a Treatment Center:
Find Additional Treatment Centers at: