Low Vision and Aging
February is Low Vision Awareness Month to raise awareness about the growing problem of eye diseases and vision loss. It is also to raise awareness about preventing vision loss and also about living with low vision. Most cases of vision loss occur to seniors over the age of 65. Aging is the main risk for low vision. However, in many cases if an eye disease is caught in its earliest stages, vision loss can be prevented with proper treatment. If you are having any kind of vision problems, waste no time, but go to an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) for a dilated eye exam.
According to the National Eye Help Education Program (NEHEP) of the National Eye Institute (NEI), about 4.2 million Americans aged 40 and older are visually impaired. When the last of the baby boomers reach age 65 by the year 2030, this rate is expected to rise to 7.2 million visually impaired Americans and 5 million of them will have low vision.
Low vision is when there has been incurable vision damage to the eyes that cannot be corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery. Low vision affects the quality of life because it makes problems with reading, cooking, shopping, writing or watching TV. Low vision also has psychological effects on people who may be depressed, anxious and feeling helpless. However, visual rehabilitation can help people learn how to use their remaining vision to stay independent and have a better quality of life.
- Visual Rehabilitation teaches people with low vision:How they can safely move around in their home
- How they can continue to do day-to-day activities like cooking and reading
- How they can find support, magnifiers, adaptive devices and other resources
- Guidance in making changes to their residence
The Visual Rehabilitation Team
The visual rehabilitation team is made up of a primary eye care professional, an optometrist or ophthalmologist who specializes in low vision. Other team members may be occupational therapists, orientation and mobility specialists, certified low vision therapists, counselors, and social workers. Medicare may pay for part or all of the cost of treatment for occupational therapy, but a physician must order the therapy and the therapist must be one that has been approved by Medicare. You can phone Medicare to see if you or your loved one are eligible for medicare-funded occupational therapy: 1-800-MEDICARE or 1-800-633-4227.
Causes of Low Vision
Low vision is usually caused by eye diseases or age-related health conditions such as:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Birth defects
- Eye injuries
Symptoms of Low Vision
If you experience any of these signs make an appointment immediately with a qualified ophthalmologist:
- Hard to recognize family members or friends even when wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Difficult to read, sew, knit, fix things or cook
- Finding it difficult to match the color of clothes
- Trouble seeing clearly when lights are turned on or when lights seem dimmer than usual
- Difficult to read traffic signs, street names or names of shops
The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York
If you or your loved one suffer from low vision and are also in need of short term rehabilitation or long-term skilled nursing care, choose a facility that has an ophthalmologist on the staff. The Van Duyn Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Syracuse, New York has a consultant ophthalmologist available to their medical staff.
Even if your eye care professional says that nothing can be done to restore your vision, be persistent and insist on getting information about visual rehabilitation.