As we get older the sensitivity of the eye and visual system deteriorates. Then a spectacle correction may not be enough. Alternative forms of magnification and illumination are most often necessary to assist in everyday tasks.
Low vision means having a level of vision where you need more than just glasses or contact lenses to see well enough to read or do everyday tasks. There is a variety of vision problems caused by diseases like macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
The symptoms of low vision will depend on the cause of vision loss and where the problem is in the eye. A person could also have low vision as the result of an injury to the eye, or may be born with poor vision.
People with varying degrees of vision loss can continue to lead independent lives with the support of low vision services and visual aids. There are continuous new developments in technologies that are helping more people with low vision.
Make an appointment to call and see us to discuss your needs.
At Frederick Swain Optometrists we have many low vision magnifiers that will give new opportunities to those requiring that extra help.
What Is Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over age 60. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, known as the macula, deteriorates. The retina is the light-sensing nerve tissue at the back of the eye. Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Although macular degeneration is never a totally blinding condition, it can be a source of significant visual disability. Vision may be too poor to drive, read or even see TV clearly.
There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration:
Dry form. The “dry” form of macular degeneration is characterized by the presence of yellow deposits, called drusen, in the macula. A few small drusen may not cause changes in vision; however, as they grow in size and increase in number, they may lead to a dimming or distortion of vision that people find most noticeable when they read. In more advanced stages of dry macular degeneration, there is also a thinning of the light-sensitive layer of cells in the macula leading to atrophy, or tissue death.
Wet form. The “wet” form of macular degeneration is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels from the choroid underneath the macula. This is called choroidal neovascularization. These blood vessels leak blood and fluid into the retina, causing distortion of vision that makes straight lines look wavy, as well as blind spots and loss of central vision. These abnormal blood vessels eventually scar, leading to permanent loss of central vision.
Although only about 10% of people with macular degeneration develop the wet form, they make up the majority of those who experience serious vision loss from the disease. It is very important for people with macular degeneration to monitor their eyesight with an Amsler grid regularly and see their optometrist on an annual basis.
Glaucoma is a condition that as a result of fluid pressure increase, causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time.
The increased pressure, called intraocular pressure, can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. If damage to the optic nerve from high eye pressure continues, glaucoma will cause permanent loss of vision.
Because most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain from this increased pressure, and the loss sneaks in from the peripheral visual fields, it is important to see your optometrist regularly so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before long-term visual loss occurs.
If you are over the age of 40 and if you have a family history of glaucoma, you should have a complete eye exam with an optometrist every one to two years. If you have health problems such as diabetes or a family history of glaucoma or are at risk for other eye diseases, you may need to visit your optometrist more frequently.
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens in the eye. Cataracts are a common eye condition that causes vision to change and worsen in older people.
Depending on how big the cataract is and where it is, it can interfere with your sight. This is because a cataract acts like frosted glass, causing your vision to become blurred.
Cataracts can be part of growing older, there is no preventable solution. However cataracts can be operated on if they get bad enough. The forming of cataracts is a slow process and it can affect both eyes.
Symptoms can include:
- Blurred vision
- Colours seeming dull
- Light sensitivity
- Poor night vision
- Frequent prescription changes to eyewear
It is important that your eye care professional monitor your vision regularly so you can be referred to a specialist at the correct time if surgery is needed. You can have this surgery through the public health system, but there will be a waiting list, based on how urgent your needs are. You can choose to use a specialist privately if you desire.
If you have diabetes, it is vital that you have your eyes checked regularly. Damage to the retina at the back of the eye (retinopathy) is a common complication of diabetes.
Initial symptoms that may occur include blurred vision, seeing floaters and flashes.
Without treatment, diabetic retinopathy can gradually become worse and lead to visual loss or even blindness. Good control of blood sugar (glucose) and blood pressure will prevent the progression of retinopathy. If the retinopathy gets severe, treatment with a laser can often prevent total loss of vision.