February: Low Vision Awareness Month
Low vision is a loss of eyesight that makes everyday tasks difficult. A person with low vision may find it difficult or impossible to accomplish activities such as reading, writing, shopping, watching television, driving a car or recognizing faces.
When vision cannot be improved with regular eyeglasses, medicine or surgery, people with low vision need help to learn how to make the most of their remaining sight and keep their independence. Losing vision does not mean giving up your activities, but it does mean finding new ways of doing them.
Patterns of vision and vision loss
This is the detailed vision we use when we look directly at something. Macular degeneration (AMD) affects central vision. Diabetic retinopathy can affect central or peripheral vision.
This is the less detailed vision we use to see everything around the edges. Glaucoma affects peripheral vision first. Strokes can affect one side of the peripheral vision.
This is the ability to distinguish between objects of similar tones like milk in a white cup or to distinguish facial features. All eye problems can decrease contrast sensitivity.
This is the ability to judge the position of objects. New vision loss in one eye can affect depth perception, such as the height of a step.
The lens in our eye focuses light rays onto our retina. The retina converts these light rays into signals that are sent through the optic nerve to our brain, where they are interpreted as the images we see. A problem with any of these processes affects our vision in various ways.
The experience of vision loss
It is always a shock to learn that your vision loss cannot be reversed. It is important to recognize the anger and frustration you may feel, to get help working through these feelings, and to apply the strategies of vision rehabilitation to stay active, including using low vision aids and low vision rehabilitation.
If you have low vision, taking care of yourself and staying active will help you avoid depression (which may appear as fatigue or lack of interest). If you are depressed, seek treatment and counseling. A good low vision support group can help you recognize that your value to yourself and others does not depend on your vision, and that you are worth the effort it takes to make the most of the vision you have.