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Low-Vision Devices

Healthcare provider explaining to patient how to use low-vision equipment

What is low vision?

Low vision is a condition that involves an impaired ability to see (particularly central vision) that is unresolved or uncorrected with traditional eyeglasses, contact lens, intraocular lens implants, or corrective surgery. However, in some cases, people with low vision may be aided with special visual devices.

What causes low vision?

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

  • Macular degeneration (the most common cause of low vision. This involves damage to the central vision making it difficult to read, drive, or perform other daily activities that need fine, central vision)

  • Aging (Aging is a risk factor for low vision. However, people of any age may be affected.)

  • Congenital defects (present at birth)

  • Injury

  • Disease (including diabetes)

  • Other eye diseases (for example, glaucoma or cataracts)

What are the different types of low vision?

In most cases, people with low vision have disabled central vision (also called reading vision). Yet, there are other types of low vision that may include the following:

  • Disabled or partial peripheral vision

  • Disabled or partial color vision

  • Disabled or partial ability to adjust to different light levels

  • Disabled or partial ability to adjust to different contrasts

  • Glared vision

What are low-vision devices?

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

What are optical low-vision devices?

Simply stated, optical low-vision devices involve the use of one of many types of lenses to improve vision. For example:

  • Magnifying devices such as magnifying eyeglasses, hand magnifiers, magnifying lamps, or telescopic viewing devices

  • Closed-circuit television involves enlarged images, exaggerated contrasts, and adjustable magnification

What are non-optical low-vision devices?

Non-optical low-vision devices help bring images closer to the eyes. This may include the use of any or all of the following:

  • Larger-print items such as magazines, newspapers, books, calendars, address books, cookbooks, dictionaries, games, playing cards, sheet music, or street signs

  • Larger, illuminated watches and clocks

  • Writing guides

  • Instruments that provide voice instruction. For example, computers, smart phones, tablets, electronic books. Many of these read material aloud, magnify, or illuminate material. Many of these products let you change word size and adjust lighting.

  • Instruments that provide voice information. For example, blood pressure cuffs, blood sugar machines, clocks, timers, calculators, scales, or key chains.

Online Medical Reviewer: Chris Haupert MD
Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2020
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