What is low vision?

by Shahina Maqbool

Low vision, or vision impairment, is a term used to describe varying degrees of vision loss, up to but not including total blindness, caused by disease, trauma, or a congenital disorder. Low vision services do not cure the cause of the vision problem but rather utilise the remaining vision to its fullest potential.

Defining low vision in the above terms while talking to ‘The News’ here on Wednesday, Dr. Kashmala of the Low Vision Department of Al-Shifa Trust Eye Hospital further elaborated that low vision is a bilateral impairment to vision that significantly impairs the functioning of the patient and cannot be adequately corrected with medical, surgical, therapy, conventional eyewear or contact lenses.

“Low vision is often a loss of sharpness or acuity but may present as a loss of field of vision, light sensitivity, distorted vision or loss of contrast. It often may occur as a result of birth defects, injury, ageing process or as a complication of disease,” Dr. Kashmala said.

The eye specialist said, special emphasis is placed on the functional problems of the patient including such items as vision to read, functioning in the kitchen, glare problems, travel vision, the workplace, television viewing, school requirements, etc.

Referring to the management of low vision, Dr. Kashmala said, it is done with different optical, non-optical and electronic aids (magnifiers, telescopes, CCTV, easy readers, etc). These aids results in significant improvement of residual vision.

Dr. Kashmala said, low vision examination is quite different from the basic eye health and refractive examination routinely performed. “The goals of the low vision exam include assessing the functional needs, capabilities and limitations of the patient’s visual system, assessing ocular and systemic diseases and their impact on functional vision, and evaluating and prescribing low vision systems and therapies,” she added.

Dr. Kashmala said that the aim of assessment is to improve the lifestyle of partial sighted patients and make them independent in life; to make them useful members of the society; to increase job opportunities for such patients and to improve their residual vision.

The News, 11/9/2008

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