What is low vision? This vague-sounding condition, which is sometimes called vision loss or visual impairment, is a permanent, life-changing diagnosis. It’s not the same as blindness — which occurs when you lose most or all of your vision — and it’s also different than simple nearsightedness or farsightedness, which both affect how clearly you see objects.
Low vision refers to an irreversible type of vision loss that might be caused by one of many different eye conditions or diseases. Understand what a diagnosis of low vision means and learn about lighting for low vision at home and work.
Low vision might stem from an eye condition like macular degeneration, or it might be the result of a broader issue like diabetes. You can’t fix this type of vision loss by wearing glasses or getting surgery, and there are no medications you can take to treat it.
Fortunately, there are many proven ways to address low vision to help you live a fuller, more productive life. You’ll work with your doctor to consider options like vision aids, glasses that magnify text, and small binoculars that can help you see things better when you’re far away from them.
To know whether you truly have low vision — which is permanent, partial vision loss — or another condition that affects how well you see, you’ll have to visit an ophthalmologist, which is a medical doctor who has special training in detecting eye-related issues.
The following conditions are common causes of low vision:
No, these conditions are different: Nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia) are both treatable conditions that interfere with the clarity of your vision. While you should seek out treatment with eyeglasses, contacts, or laser surgery, these conditions are not usually serious and won’t cause long-term health problems.
Symptoms of nearsightedness include blurriness when you look at things that are far away, headaches, and worsening night vision. Many children, teens, and young adults experience symptoms early in life, and many older adults develop the condition as they age.
Farsightedness happens more often as you get older, but it can occur in younger people as well. A typical symptom of this condition is seeing close objects as blurry while having good distance vision. Like nearsightedness, farsightedness isn’t usually a sign of health problems, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re losing your sight.
Unless you work with photography, film, construction, or interior design, it might surprise you to know that there are many types of lighting you can install in your home. Read over the following information whether you’re searching for low vision aids for reading, task lighting, or entire-house illumination.
Lighting to consider. Below are three types of lighting that are ideal for people with low vision. Pay special attention to what you’re going to be using the light for, though. Not all lights are appropriate for an entire space.
Lighting to avoid. Check on the type and color temperature of your new light before you commit to bringing it home. If you’re not sure about how warm or cool the light is, look for the letter “K” (for “Kelvin”) on the package. A warmer light will have a lower Kelvin number and a cooler light will have a higher Kelvin number.
People with low vision have many options for lighting, but it’s important to find what works best for your eyes. Remember that the farther away your light is from your book, document, or craft, the brighter it will have to be for you to see it adequately.
You might start by using fluorescent or CFL bulbs to light the entire room and purchasing a small LED task light for your desk or reading spot. Ask your doctor or ophthalmologist if you have more specific questions about lighting for low vision.
Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD),” “Diabetes and Your Eyes: “What You Need to Know.”
Maculardegeneration.net: “Finding Lighting Fit for a VIP (Visually Impaired Person).”
Mayo Clinic: “Farsightedness,” “Glaucoma,” “Low Vision,” “Nearsightedness.”
National Eye Institute: “Low Vision.”
Prevent Blindness: “Lighting for Low Vision.”
Vision Aware: “Lighting for Reading.”
University of Washington: “How are the terms low vision, visually impaired, and blindness defined?”
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