February is low vision awareness month and we can think of no better time to call attention to an important condition that affects millions each year. We want to take time to inform you of the causes and risk factors related to low vision as well as how to prevent and protect your sight as you age.
What is low vision?
Low vision refers to vision loss that cannot be corrected by a medical, surgical, or corrective lens treatment. Those who struggle with low vision often experience difficulty in everyday tasks such as reading, shopping, writing, cooking, watching TV, or recognizing faces.
What conditions cause low vision?
Though a majority of those with low vision are age 65 or older, low vision can occur in younger people depending on several risk factors such as genetics, infection, disease, injury, and trauma.
Common conditions that can lead to low vision include:
- Macular Degeneration: A disorder that causes the retina to deteriorate resulting in blurred vision, uneven vision, or blind spots. The most common form is Age-Related Macular Degeneration
- Glaucoma: Refers to a condition where the optic nerve is damaged causing low vision or blindness if not treated. Glaucoma vision loss typically begins in the periphery and can move inward as it progresses.
- Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetes can increase your risk for several eye-related conditions as changes in the blood vessels occur, including those within the eye that can result in vision loss.
- Cataracts: A clouding of part or all of the lens within the eye that can result in a general loss of vision.
It is important to note that the normal aging of the eye does not lead to low vision.
Reducing your risk
Even though there is no cure to low vision, practicing healthy, daily lifestyle habits can reduce your risk of developing it. Some of these habits include:
- Maintaining a well-balanced diet full of green vegetables and fresh fruit.
- Reducing your tobacco and alcohol intake
- Maintaining a healthy weight with regular daily exercise
- Protecting your eyes from UV rays, even on cloudy days
Protect your vision
Regular comprehensive eye exams are essential to protecting and preserving your eyesight. A low vision specialist will work with you to treat and determine a customized care plan on how to manage your symptoms and help you build your visual potential. Treatment may include learning strategies on how to navigate the world with low vision, using magnifying or adaptive devices, and providing support and resources for your benefit.
It is hard to restore vision, but with rehabilitation, we can help preserve the vision and customize treatment plans to help patients adapt and regain independence with low vision. If you have risk factors for low vision or are concerned about your eyesight, contact Yakima Vision Center today to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.