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Low Vision Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Low vision is vision loss that affects daily activities like reading, cooking, walking or driving. It isn't fixed with conventional eyeglasses, contacts, medications, or surgery. The good news is that low vision rehabilitation can help people with low vision manage their condition and daily performance.

During low vision rehab, people learn how to maximize their remaining vision. They use various optical devices, tools and strategies to remain independent.

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What Causes Low Vision?

Low vision can affect anyone at any age. Although low vision is not a typical sign of aging, it is more common in older adults.

Causes of low vision include genetic conditions you're born with and age-related and other health issues or injuries. Diseases associated with low vision include:

  • Inherited retinal dystrophies: such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, Oculocutaneous Albinism and Stargardt's Maculopathy
  • Macular degeneration.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Diabetic retinopathy.
  • Eye injuries.
  • Stroke.
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What Are Low Vision Symptoms?

Low vision symptoms vary depending on the condition's cause. Some symptoms can include:

  • Loss of central vision (detailed vision).
  • Loss of side (peripheral) vision.
  • Loss of the ability to distinguish between similar colors or textures (contrast sensitivity).
  • Loss of the ability to see how close or far away an object is from you (depth perception).
  • Problems with glare.
  • Blurred or hazy vision.
  • Night blindness.

How Is Low Vision Diagnosed?

Regular eye exams can detect health issues that lead to low vision. During the eye exam, your doctor will ask about your health history and do tests to check your vision.

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How Is Low Vision Treated?

Low vision is different for everyone. Treatment and management begin with testing the person's vision and talking about their goals.

A team of experts will assess each person with low vision. They'll develop a plan tailored to the person's specific needs.

This team includes:

  • Optometrist.
  • Ophthalmologist.
  • Occupational therapist.
  • Other health care workers.

Low vision rehabilitation can help people learn how to make the most of their vision. This can help them work, attend school, and live independently.

Treatments for low vision may include:

  • Optical aids, like telescopic glasses, microscopic glasses, or magnifiers.
  • Electronic devices.
  • Adaptive technology, like computer enlarging software or text-to-speech programs.

Low vision experts may also suggest other non-optical aids. These can include large-print books, audiobooks, and special lighting. They can also offer strategies for streamlining the spaces where you live and work.

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Last reviewed by a UPMC medical professional on 2023-12-01.