Low Vision FAQs
A: Decreased visual acuity that cannot be improved with ordinary glasses or with medical or surgical intervention. People with low vision generally have visual acuity of 20/70 or less. Low vision may also include loss of peripheral vision, impaired color vision, or inability to adjust to light, glare or contrast.
A: The most common causes of low vision are cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, complications of diabetic retinopathy, inherited retinal degeneration, and ocular trauma. Cataracts are easily treated with surgery. Glaucoma can usually be controlled with medication or surgery. Macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and inherited retinal degeneration remain unmet challenges for successful treatment.
A: Legal blindness is best corrected visual acuity of 20/200 or less in both eyes, or restriction of visual field to within 20 degrees of fixation. Legal blindness does not mean the total loss of sight. In fact, patients with legal blindness can function relatively normally with low vision aids and accommodations.
A: The primary effect of low vision is decreased reading ability and efficiency. This can frequently be improved with low vision devices and other non-optical accommodations. Restriction of the field of vision such as occurs with glaucoma or strokes, may restrict mobility. Many patients with reduced vision can still live independently and work productively.
A: In most states, driving may be restricted when visual acuity is less than 20/40 in both eyes, or when the field of vision is restricted to within 20 degrees of fixation in both eyes. Individuals may continue to drive with restrictions with visual acuity between 20/40 and 20/70. Restrictions include nighttime driving, driving on freeways, and maximal speed. The Motor Vehicle Department has the authority to restrict driving. Physicians and optometrists frequently advise patients about driving based on their vision condition and other medical problems.
A: Loss of vision is probably feared more than any other medical condition, including cancer, heart disease and stroke. Adjusting to the loss of vision is a process which begins with grief and ends with acceptance and adjustment. Many find it difficult to accept the fact that the loss of vision is permanent, or that nothing medically can be done to improve vision. People often wonder if they did something wrong, or did not obtain medical care soon enough. Most of the time there is nothing one does to cause the loss of vision, or to prevent the loss of vision. Adjustment to loss of vision is a process which takes time.
A: Patients with a history of strokes, dementia, and Parkinson’s Disease may not be good candidates for low vision rehabilitation.
A: Anything that enhances remaining vision is considered a low vision aid. Devices that can be used to maximize useful vision include magnification, expansion of visual field, illumination and enhanced contrast. Magnifiers include magnifying glasses, hand held magnifiers, stand magnifiers and electronic devices which can greatly magnify reading material. All magnifying devices either require a shorter working distance or restriction of the field of view. The most powerful and useful devices are video reading machines which can be either stationary or portable, and can be adjusted to control magnification, light, and contrast. Although these devices are expensive, they are sometimes available through the VA or other non-profit organizations, or can be purchased second hand.
A: Lighting will greatly improve vision for most individuals. Spectral white light, such natural daylight, or light from halogen, fluorescent and LED bulbs is best. Light should be directed from behind to avoid glare. Getting close to things, such as the TV, also enhances vision. Reading should be done in the morning when you are rested and alert, instead of trying to read at night in bed.
Other non-optical aids include large print books newspapers and magazines, many of which are available online. Reading and writing guides can be used to improve reading and writing efficiency. Auditory devises such as talking watches and clocks, calculators, and appliances can facilitate independence. Finally, computers with either voice activation, or read-over capability can greatly improve communication for the visually impaired.
A: Resources available to individuals with low vision to assist them with activities of daily living, mobility training, used of technology, and improve their overall social interaction. These services may be provided at home or in rehabilitations facilities. Services include independent living skills, support groups, group activities, adaptive techniques for exercise, and professional counseling. Transportation services are available and can eliminate this major barrier to access help.
A: Each state has an agency which provides services for the blind and visually impaired. In Minnesota, The Department of Employment and Economic Security provides these services, including evaluation, referral, training, and technology to assist individuals experiencing vision loss to live independently and to prepare for, find, and keep a job.
A: The main office is located in St Paul:
2200 University Ave West, Suite 240, St Paul, MN 55114
Tel: 651 642 0500
TYY: 651 642 0506
Toll Free: 1-800-652-9000
Offices are also located in Bimidji, Brainard, Duluth, Hibbing, Mankato, Marshall, Morehead, Rochester, and St Cloud.
Individuals can be referred to State Services for the Blind and Visually impaired by having their ophthalmologist or optometrist complete a postcard indicating their diagnosis and level visual impairment. Individuals may also contact State Services directly.