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Vision Loss Index
  What is Low Vision?  
  Living With Low Vision  
  How do I know if I have low vision?  
  What can I do if I have low vision?  
  Questions to ask your eye care professional  
  Questions to ask your specialist in low vision  
  Managing Prescription Medications  
  Resources  
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What is Low Vision?
  Loss of vision; No light perception (NLP); Low vision; Vision loss and blindness  
 

Low vision means that even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people find everyday tasks difficult to do. Reading the mail, shopping, cooking, seeing the TV, and writing can seem challenging. But, many people with low vision are taking charge.

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Living With Low Vision
 

By making better use of their remaining vision, people can continue to enjoy doing important daily activities. View video testimonies and read personal stories about how available resources have helped individuals continue to live independently.

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What is low vision?
 

When you have low vision, eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery may not help. Activities like reading, shopping, cooking, writing, and watching TV may be hard to do.

In fact, millions of Americans lose some of their sight every year. While vision loss can affect anyone at any age, low vision is most common for those over age 65.

Low vision is usually caused by eye diseases or health conditions. Some of these include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract, diabetes, and glaucoma. Eye injuries and birth defects are some other causes. Whatever the cause, lost vision cannot be restored. It can, however, be managed with proper treatment and vision rehabilitation.

You should visit an eye care professional if you experience any changes to your eyesight.

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How do I know if I have low vision?
 

Below are some signs of low vision. Even when wearing your glasses or contact lenses, do you still have difficulty with-

  • Recognizing the faces of family and friends?
  • Reading, cooking, sewing, or fixing things around the house?
  • Selecting and matching the color of your clothes?
  • Seeing clearly with the lights on or feeling like they are dimmer than normal?
  • Reading traffic signs or the names of stores?

These could all be early warning signs of vision loss or eye disease. The sooner vision loss or eye disease is detected by an eye care professional, the greater your chances of keeping your remaining vision.

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What can I do if I have low vision?
 

To cope with vision loss, you must first have an excellent support team. This team should include you, your primary eye care professional, and an optometrist or ophthalmologist specializing in low vision.

Occupational therapists, orientation and mobility specialists, certified low vision therapists, counselors, and social workers are also available to help.

Together, the low vision team can help you make the most of your remaining vision and maintain your independence.

Second, talk with your eye care professional about your vision problems. Even though it may be difficult, ask for help. Find out where you can get more information about support services and adaptive devices. Also, find out which services and devices are best for you and which will give you the most independence. Remember, Erin, Joma, Lawrence, and Ruth each had different types of vision loss, but they all talked with their eye care professional and are now living fulfilling and independent lives.

Third, ask about vision rehabilitation, even if your eye care professional says that "nothing more can be done for your vision."

Vision rehabilitation programs offer a wide range of services, including training for magnifying and adaptive devices, ways to complete daily living skills safely and independently, guidance on modifying your home, and information on where to locate resources and support to help you cope with your vision loss.

Medicare may cover part or all of a patient's occupational therapy, but the therapy must be ordered by a doctor and provided by a Medicare-approved healthcare provider. To see if you are eligible for Medicare-funded occupational therapy, call 1–800–MEDICARE or 1–800–633–4227.

Finally, be persistent. Remember that you are your best healthcare advocate. Explore your options, learn as much as you can, and keep asking questions about vision rehabilitation. In fact, write down questions to ask your doctor before your exam, and bring along a notepad to jot down answers.

There are many resources to help people with low vision, and many of these programs, devices, and technologies can help you maintain your normal, everyday way of life.

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Questions to ask your eye care professional:
 
  • What changes can I expect in my vision?
  • Will my vision loss get worse? How much of my vision will I lose?
  • Will regular eyeglasses improve my vision?
  • What medical or surgical treatments are available for my condition?
  • What can I do to protect or prolong my vision?
  • Will diet, exercise, or other lifestyle changes help?
  • If my vision can't be corrected, can you refer me to a specialist in low vision?
  • Where can I get vision rehabilitation services?
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Questions to ask your specialist in low vision:
 
  • How can I continue my normal, routine activities?
  • Are there resources to help me in my job?
  • Will any special devices help me with daily activities like reading, sewing, cooking, or fixing things around the house?
  • What training and services are available to help me live better and more safely with low vision?
  • Where can I find individual or group support to cope with my vision loss?
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Managing Prescription Medications
  Medication Management
  Safely and effectively managing your medications is critical to your overall health and well-being. Modern medicine has improved our quality of life and can help us live longer, healthier lives. However, people with low vision need to be careful when using medications, especially if they are taking several different drugs.
  According to a study of older adults taking five or more medications, more than one out of every three people reported having a bad reaction to at least one of their medicines.

  Regardless of your age and the medication you use, it is important to go to all of your medical appointments and to talk to your healthcare providers about your medical conditions, the medicines you take, and any health concerns you have. Whenever you receive a new prescription, consider asking the following questions of your doctor or pharmacist:
 
  • What is the name of the medication?
  • What is the medication supposed to do?
  • How many times a day should I take the medication?
  • For how long should I take it?
  • When will the medication begin to work and how can I tell?
  • Should I take the medication with food or water?
  • Will I need any testing to monitor the effects of the medication?
  • Are there foods, drinks, other medications, or herbal supplements I should avoid when taking this medicine?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • What should I do if I get side effects?
  • What should I do if I miss or forget to take a dose?
  • Is there a less expensive or generic alternative for the medication?
  If you or a loved one has low vision, it’s important to develop a safe, effective system for organizing and identifying your prescription and over-the-counter medications—what they are, the prescribed or recommended dosage, and how often you need to take them. Consider using these tips for managing your medications to continue to live an independent and healthy lifestyle: Blister pack
  Blister pack  
 
  1. Ask your pharmacist to print an additional label with larger print that you can easily see.
    • Mark your medication bottles with large-print labels, tactile dots, rubber bands, or Braille.
    • Ask your pharmacist to place your medication in a blister pack to help keep them organized.
    • Make sure that you don’t place your label over the existing one, in case someone else has to read it.
  2. Use talking medication identifiers if large-print labels don’t work for you.
  3. Use a tray with good color contrast to help you see your pills and keep them from falling on the floor if dropped.
  4. Place a light close to the labels you are trying to see.
  5. Use a checklist to help you track your daily medications and the proper dosage for each.
  For more information and suggestions to help you manage your medications, visit the following websites:
 
  • Managing your Medications (VisionAware™—VisionAware helps adults who are losing their sight continue to live full and independent lives by providing timely information, step-by-step daily living techniques, a directory of national and local services, and a supportive online community.)
  • Medications: Use Them Safely (National Institute on Aging—One of the 27 Institutes and Centers of the National Institutes of Health, dedicated to understanding the nature of aging, supporting the health and well-being of older adults, and extending healthy, active years of life for more people.)
  • Medicines and You: A Guide for Older Adults (PDF file) (Administration on Aging—An agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AoA seeks to develop a comprehensive, coordinated and cost-effective system of home and community-based services that helps elderly individuals maintain their health and independence in their homes and communities.)
  • Prescription Drug Options for Older Adults: Managing Your Medicines (PDF file) (Eldercare Locator—A public service of the AoA that connects older adults and their families to available services.)
  • Taking Medications (NIHSeniorHealth—A website for older adults that seeks to make aging-related health information easily accessible.)
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Resources
  The following resources can help you find low vision specialists, services and information. Inclusion on this page does not imply endorsement by the National Eye Institute or the National Institutes of Health.
  For locating a low vision specialist in your area, you can contact the following:
 
  1. American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)
    P.O. Box 7424
    San Francisco, CA 94120-7424
    (415) 561-8500
    http://www.aao.org
    The AAO represents ophthalmologists, medical and osteopathic physicians, who provide comprehensive eye care, including medical, surgical and optical care. Their website provides a directory of ophthalmologists in low vision rehabilitation.

    American Optometric Association (AOA)
    243 N. Lindbergh Boulevard
    St. Louis, MO 63141
    (800) 365-2219
    (314) 991-4100
    http://www.aoa.org
    The AOA represents doctors of optometry (ODs) who examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases, injuries, and disorders of the visual system, the eye, and associated structures as well as identify related systemic conditions affecting the eye. Their website provides a directory of optometrists in vision rehabilitation.

    These organizations have databases to help you find low vision services in your state or local area:

    American Association of the Deaf-Blind
    P.O. Box 2831
    Kensington, MD 20891
    (301) 495-4403
    (301) 495-4402 TTY
    (301) 563-9107 Video Phone
    http://www.aadb.org
    The American Association of the Deaf-Blind (AADB) is a nonprofit national consumer organization of, by, and for deaf-blind Americans and their supporters. They provide a database of state and local organizations and agencies serving that help deaf-blind persons achieve their maximum potential through increased independence, productivity, and integration into the community

    National Council of State Agencies for the Blind
    NCSAB members are the state agencies that provide resources and services for the visually impaired. The website provides links to state agencies.

    National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped
    Library of Congress
    Washington, DC 20542
    (202) 707-5100
    (202) 707-0744 TDD
    http://www.loc.gov/nls/
    nls@loc.gov
    Through a national network of cooperating libraries, NLS administers a free library program of braille and audio materials circulated to eligible borrowers in the United States by postage-free mail. To find a local library, visit.

    VisionAware
    http://www.visionaware.org
    visionaware@afb.net
    VisionAware helps adults who are losing their sight continue to live full and independent lives by providing timely information, step-by-step daily living techniques, a directory of national and local services, and a supportive online community. The website has “Looking for Help”, a directory of state and local resources.

    For information on low vision and to find additional resources, contact the following national organizations:

    American Council of the Blind
    2200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 650
    Arlington, VA 22201-3354
    (800) 424-8666
    (202) 467-5081
    http://www.acb.org
    info@acb.org
    The American Council of the Blind strives to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life, for all blind and visually-impaired people.

    American Foundation for the Blind
    2 Penn Plaza, Suite 1102
    New York, NY 10121
    (800) 232-5463
    (212) 502-7600
    http://www.afb.org
    afbinfo@afb.net
    The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) expands possibilities for Americans living with vision loss. AFB programs directly address the most pressing needs of people with vision loss and their families.

    American Printing House for the Blind
    1839 Frankfort Avenue
    P.O. Box 6085
    Louisville, KY 40206-0085
    (800) 223-1839
    (502) 895-2405
    http://www.aph.org
    info@aph.org
    The American Printing House for the Blind is a nonprofit organization creating educational, workplace, and independent living products and services for people who are visually impaired.

    Blinded Veterans Association
    477 H Street, NW
    Washington, DC 20001
    (202) 371-8880
    http://www.bva.org
    bva@bva.org
    The Blinded Veterans Association represents blinded veterans helping blinded veterans. Through their programs, regional groups, resources, and advocacy, they hope to make life better for blinded veterans. All legally blinded veterans are also eligible for BVA’s assistance whether they become blind during or after active duty military service.

    Choice Magazine Listening
    85 Channel Drive
    Port Washington, NY 11050
    (888) 724-6423
    (516) 883-8280
    http://www.choicemagazinelistening.org
    ChoiceMag@Aol.Com
    Choice Magazine Listening is a nonprofit organization that provides audio recordings of memorable articles, stories, interviews, essays and poems from outstanding current magazines, completely free of charge, to blind, visually impaired, physically disabled or dyslexic adults.

    Christian Record Services for the Blind
    4444 South 52nd Street
    Lincoln, NE 68516-1302
    (402) 488-0981
    http://www.christianrecord.org
    info@christianrecord.org
    Christian Record Services provides free Christian publications and programs for people with visual impairments.

    Council of Citizens with Low Vision International
    (800) 733-2258
    http://www.cclvi.org
    jim.jirak@cclvi.org
    CCLVI is a membership organization. Some of their services include providing mechanism through which low vision people can express their individual needs, interests and preferences and educating the general public, professionals, and low vision people themselves as to the potentialities, capabilities, and needs of low vision people.

    Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults
    141 Middle Neck Road
    Sands Point, NY 11050
    (516) 944-8900
    (516) 944-8637 TTY
    (516) 570-3626 Videophone
    (866) 351-9089 Videophone
    http://www.hknc.org/
    hkncinfo@hknc.org
    The mission of the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults is to enable each person who is deaf-blind to live and work in his or her community of choice.

    JBI International
    110 E. 30th Street
    New York, NY 10016
    (800) 433-1531
    (212) 889-2525
    http://www.jbilibrary.org/
    JBI has provided people of all ages who are blind, visually impaired or reading disabled with books, magazines, and special publications in Braille, Large Print and in Audio format that enable them to maintain their connection to the rich literary and cultural life of the Jewish and broader community.

    Learning Ally
    20 Roszel Road
    Princeton, NJ 08540
    (800) 221–4792
    http://www.learningally.org
    custserv@LearningAlly.org
    The mission of Learning Ally is to promote personal achievement when access and reading are barriers to learning by advancing the use of accessible and effective educational solutions.

    National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments
    P.O. Box 317
    Watertown, MA 02471
    (800) 562-6265
    (617) 972-7441
    http://www.spedex.com
    napvi@perkins.org
    The National Association for Parents of Children with Visual Impairments is a non-profit organization of, by and for parents committed to providing support to the parents of children who have visual impairments.

    National Family Association for Deaf-Blind
    141 Middle Neck Road
    Sands Point, NY 11050
    (800) 255-0411
    http://www.nfadb.org
    NFADB@aol.com
    The National Family Association for Deaf-Blind (NFADB) is a nonprofit national organization of families of individuals who are deaf-blind.

    National Federation of the Blind
    200 East Wells Street
    Baltimore, MD 21230
    (410) 659-9314
    https://nfb.org/
    The National Federation of the Blind is a source for helping blind and visually impaired people find the resources, support, and hope they need to lead productive and fulfilling lives.

    National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
    31 Center Drive MSC 2510
    Bethesda, MD 20892-2510
    (301) 496-5248
    http://www.nei.nih.gov/lowvision
    The National Eye Institute provides a consumer-friendly forum where people can learn important information about low vision and vision rehabilitation, how to help a loved one and resources available.

    Prevent Blindness America
    211 West Wacker Drive
    Suite 1700
    Chicago, Illinois 60606
    1-800-331-2020
    lowvision.preventblindness.org
    Prevent Blindness America offers free information and personal assistance for people dealing with low vision caused by macular degeneration or other eye diseases.
 
Last Updated: January 2013
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