Low Vision in Older Adults

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Many older adults affected by low vision find vision aids may help.

Low vision is the loss of sight that cannot be corrected by prescription eyeglasses or surgery. This condition often affects older adults and may be caused by age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetes. It is not the same as blindness because people still maintain some sight. They may also benefit from the use of low vision aids.

What Is Low Vision?

A person is considered to have low vision if they use corrective lenses and have a visual acuity of 20/70 or worse, while a person with vision corrected to 20/200 or worse is usually considered legally blind.

There are degrees of low vision that affect a person’s sight in different ways including:

  • Loss of central vision – Blind spots in the center of a person’s vision affect what a person can see directly in front of them. Side vision may still be intact.
  • Loss of peripheral or side vision – A person’s central vision may be clear, and they can see straight ahead. Instead, they have blind spots that prevent being able to see to the sides or above or below eye level.
  • Night blindness – A person with night blindness may be unable to see outside at night or in dimly lit areas or indoor locations.
  • Blurred vision – Items appear out of focus.
  • Hazy vision or glare – Everything in the range of vision appears to be hazy or to have a glare over it.

Causes of Low Vision

Although anyone can develop low vision due to eye injury or inherited health conditions, age is often a factor. Low vision is common in adults over the age of 45 and has a higher occurrence in people over 75 because of certain age-related conditions. Some common causes of low vision include:

  • Diabetes can cause damage to the retina over time.
  • Glaucoma can lead to damage to the optic nerve. Peripheral vision and night vision loss may be the first signs of damage from glaucoma.
  • Macular degeneration is an age-related disorder affecting the retina that causes blurred vision.
  • Cataracts are a clouding on the lens caused by aging, long-term sun exposure, injury, or disease.
  • Inherited eye disorders
  • Eye injury, brain injury, or stroke

Diagnosis and Vision Aids

If changes in vision are detected, it’s important to visit a doctor for an eye exam. An eye doctor will assess a patient’s health, eye history, and visual difficulties that are affecting the person’s ability to perform daily activities. To examine a patient’s visual acuity and depth perception, the doctor may use a variety of tests including eye charts, reading ability, sensitivity to light or glare, and more.

In many cases, low vision may be permanent, but there are devices and tools that may help improve an individual’s sight and quality of life. Some common vision aids and other tools include:

  • Reading glasses
  • Telescopic glasses that help people see longer distances
  • Lens filters that reduce glare
  • Magnifying glasses or handheld magnifiers for reading labels
  • Magnifiers for watching television
  • E-readers with font, magnification, and lighting options for reading electronic books (eBooks)
  • Phones, clocks, and watches with larger numbers and high-contrast displays
  • Large print books, magazines, and newspapers
  • Screen readers or software that reads text
  • Talking devices such as watches, clocks, thermometers, scales, and more
  • Audiobooks

In addition to using these tools, older adults with low vision can learn how to use their remaining vision to continue to perform daily activities at home. A professional in-home caregiver can also assist with personal care needs, exercise, monitoring vital signs, meal preparation, medication reminders, transportation to social events, and many other services to help individuals at home.

Visiting Care Giving Services is available to help older adults with vision impairment maintain a safe and independent life in the comfort of home. To learn more about our trusted home care services and elderly care in Chesterfield and the surrounding areas, contact us online or at (636) 493-9058.