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Information About Low Vision & Its Causes

If you are not familiar with low vision, you are not alone. It is not a commonly understood condition, and for this reason, it can be overlooked as a condition that can be debilitating and scary for those experiencing it. But it doesn’t have to be scary or isolating. At Spectrios Institute, low vision is our specialty, and our single-minded focus is helping those with low vision and vision loss live full lives.

Low vision is any visual impairment that cannot be corrected with medical treatment, surgery, or conventional lenses and that interferes with an individual's ability to perform daily activities.

How do you know if you or a loved one or a friend is suffering from low vision? If you or someone you know has difficulty doing any of the following activities, it may be due to low vision:

  • Reading a newspaper, book, or mail
  • Seeing well at night or in dimly lighted rooms
  • Driving
  • Performing routine household tasks
  • Seeing the TV
  • Recognizing people across the room
  • Seeing curbs and cracks in the sidewalk
  • Performing everyday activities like cooking or personal grooming and hygiene

Common Types of Low Vision

Loss of Central Vision — The loss of central vision creates a blur or blind spot, but side (peripheral) vision remains intact. This makes it difficult to read, recognize faces, and distinguish most details in the distance. Mobility, however, is usually unaffected because side vision remains intact.

Loss of Peripheral (Side) Vision — Loss of peripheral vision is typified by an inability to distinguish anything to one or both sides of the head, or anything directly above and/or below eye level. Central vision remains, making it possible to see directly ahead. Typically, loss of peripheral vision affects mobility and, if severe, can slow reading speed as a result of seeing only a few words at a time. This is sometimes referred to as "tunnel vision.”

Blurred Vision — Blurred vision causes both near and far vision to appear out of focus, even with use of the best conventional spectacle correction.

Generalized Haze — Generalized haze causes the sensation of a film or glare that may extend over the entire viewing field.

Extreme Light Sensitivity — Extreme light sensitivity exists when standard levels of illumination overwhelm the visual system, producing a washed out image and/or glare disability. People with extreme light sensitivity may suffer pain or discomfort from relatively normal levels of illumination.

Night Blindness — Night blindness results in the inability to see outside at night under starlight or moonlight or in dimly light interior areas such as movie theaters or restaurants.

Both extreme light sensitivity and night blindness qualify as low vision because they are permanent and uncorrectable.

Common Types of Eye Conditions Causing Low Vision

Low vision can be caused by a variety of diseases and disorders. A few of the most common types of eye conditions that cause low vision include:

  • Cataracts
  • Diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity
  • Glaucoma
  • Macular degeneration (including age related macular degeneration)

For a comprehensive glossary of eye conditions, visit the American Foundation for the Blind website.

Make an appointment to come to Spectrios Institute to receive a full evaluation by our knowledgeable low vision doctors, to take advantage of our low vision services, and to learn how to make the most of your vision.

Contact us at (630) 690-7115 or at info@spectrios.org.