Schedule Your Eye Exam During Low Vision Awareness Month

Vision changes without warning, even in a healthy eye. The vision community observes Low Vision Awareness Month in February, and we want to take this opportunity to remind everyone about the importance of routine eye exams from a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist.

According to the National Eye Institute, glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery cannot fix low vision. Low vision mainly affects people 65 and older but can affect anyone. Learning about low vision awareness is important because it cannot be reversed but managed.

Low vision occurs more readily as the eye ages. Many common eye conditions cause it, including:

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) affects the retina, the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye, where images are focused. The macula, the area on the retina responsible for sharp central vision, deteriorates, causing blurred vision. This can cause difficulty reading and, for some, a blurry or blind spot in the central area of vision. In the non-exudative “dry” form of AMD–the most common form–vision loss usually progresses slowly. The exudative “wet” form causes rapid and severe vision loss. Abnormal blood vessels develop under the macula and leak fluid and blood. Both exudative and non-exudative forms of macular degeneration are age-related. They are the leading cause of blindness for people over 50.


A cataract is a cloudy or opaque area in a clear eye lens. A cataract’s size and location determine the effect on vision. Most cataracts develop in people over 55 but occasionally occur in infants and young children. The lens is inside the eye behind the iris, the colored part of the eye. Normally, the lens focuses light on the retina, which sends the image through the optic nerve to the brain. However, if a cataract clouds the lens, light is scattered, so the lens can no longer focus properly, causing vision problems. Surgery can remove cataracts and restore vision in a healthy eye, but people with other eye conditions will still have impaired vision.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetics can experience daily changes in their vision and visual functioning because of the disease. Diabetes can cause blood vessels that nourish the retina to develop tiny, abnormal branches that leak. This interferes with vision and may severely damage the retina. Laser procedures and surgical treatments can reduce its progression, but regulating blood sugar is the most important step in treating diabetic retinopathy.

A person with low vision will experience sight loss in many ways. Glare impairs vision for someone with diabetic retinopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa often causes night blindness. Partial sight can also present as blurred vision or hazy vision, which appears as a film or glare across the field of vision.

Pay attention to your loved ones. If you notice a family member or friend cannot see clearly in bright areas, has difficulty identifying colors of objects, or struggles to read regular print, help them find an eye doctor as soon as possible. The Vision Council, a global resource for vision care products and services, states that up to 80 percent of cases dealing with visual impairment are considered preventable. An eye care provider can diagnose and treat many eye conditions early in the disease progression through annual comprehensive eye exams. In many cases, timely care can delay or prevent vision loss.

A vision condition diagnosis often requires regular visits with your ophthalmologist or optometrist. This specialist will set up a rehabilitation plan to maximize remaining eyesight when all measures medically and surgically are reached. The Weigel Williamson Center for Visual Rehabilitation helps people experiencing vision loss use their remaining vision.

Magnifiers, smartphones, and other technology with a vision condition continue doing the things they love. Find out more through our adaptive technology training program.

Take care of your eyes, proactively help a loved one find resources to manage a vision condition when needed, and learn the importance of low vision awareness.

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