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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

What is Low Vision?

If you have been told you have low vision, it means you still have some good usable vision and can learn to make the best use of it!

Your vision is a complex sense made up of your ability to see contrasts and sharpness of detail, and to evaluate the location of objects in the environment.

Changes in vision can be corrected in healthy eyes by glasses or contact lenses. If you have been told by your eye care professional that your vision cannot be fully corrected by ordinary prescription lenses, medical treatment, or surgery, and you still have some usable vision, you have what is called "low vision."

Low vision can result from specific eye conditions, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, or from a stroke.

If you have low vision, you may experience one or more of three types of vision problems. You may have:

  • overall blurred vision which can be caused by cataracts, scars on the cornea, or diabetic retinopathy;

  • loss of central or center vision, frequently caused by macular degeneration; and,

  • loss of peripheral or side vision, most commonly caused by glaucoma or stroke.

There are ophthalmologists and optometrists with special training in low vision. Ask your eye care professional to refer you to a low vision specialist for a special kind of eye examination called a "low vision evaluation." This specialist can determine the extent of your remaining vision and prescribe special optical devices that help you make the best use of the vision you have by magnifying, filtering, or increasing the usable field of your vision. Examples of devices include:

  • hand-held or stand magnifiers for reading print or performing other close-up tasks;

  • high-intensity lamps for reading and other close-up tasks such as writing or sewing;

  • pocket-sized telescopes for distance vision, such as reading a street sign or identifying the number of an approaching bus; and,

  • closed-circuit televisions for reading, which magnify and project printed materials onto a television screen.

You may also benefit from vision-related rehabilitation services, where professionals can train you to use alternative methods to do routine daily activities and to move about safely both indoors and outside your home. Ask your eye care professional to refer you to an agency serving people who are visually impaired, check your local telephone directory, call the American Foundation for the Blind for a referral (1-800-232-5463), or search the AFB Directory of Services.

So if you have low vision, you can continue to do the activities you need to do and enjoy doing. Help is out there. Make sure you see a low vision specialist!

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