Look after your vision after “Low Vision Month”

“Low Vision Month” is a time to look after your vision

As a provider of prescription eyewear to clients worldwide, we at Allegro Optical like to keep abreast of eye health protocols internationally. This way we can provide the very best care, and up to date advice when required.

 Some of our blog readers may, (or may not), be aware that in America, February is AMD / Low Vision Awareness month, in line with their “2020 Prevent Blindness eye health and safety observances”. This got my cogs turning. Although this is an American Care Scheme, surely it can only be a good thing for people to be aware of what low vision is. Below I have written a very brief introduction and offered some key information that I think we should all know about it.

What is low vision?

Low vision is when eyesight is impaired so much that carrying out simple tasks. Things like making a cup of tea, reading the paper, or even recognising faces, is made difficult. These tasks cannot be made easier with the use of spectacles, as they can no longer improve vision to the standard necessary to carry out these basic tasks. 

In the UK, Ophthalmologists classify low vision into two categories;

  1. Sight Impaired (SI) (referred to as partially sighted) 
  2. Severely Sight Impaired (SSI) (blind).  

With this condition, a GP or Optician will refer you to an Ophthalmologist for registration. The Ophthalmologist will measure your best-corrected vision (vision with glasses or contact lenses on) or VA’s (visual acuities). They will then carry out a visual fields test, then classify you accordingly.   If you are interested in the requirements for classification, please refer to the RNIB website which has them listed.

Being classified as blind doesn’t necessarily mean that person has no vision. This is a common misconception. Don’t be alarmed if a person registered blind can still see what colour top you have on.

What happens after registration?

If you are registered as either SI or SSI, this then entitles you to a certificate of visual impairment (CVI). This can help with the provision of extra funding for low vision aids. It can also help provide the support required to enhance the lives of those suffering from low vision. 

I would like to add as a side note, that social services will also do an assessment on those suffering from vision problems. Even for those who do not quite meet the requirements for registration. Again for a full listing of the help entitlement for those with a CVI have a look online. But for a few examples it does entitle you to a carers cinema pass, disabled person’s railcard and reduced or free bus pass. You may also be entitled to blind persons tax allowance (SSI) and the list continues…

Why does Low Vision happen?

Low vision can be caused by lots of things. It may be something you are born with due to a complication during development in the womb (eg retinopathy of prematurity). Low vision may happen during childhood due to an eye condition (eg infantile glaucoma) or trauma. It may happen in later life due to either an eye condition such as macular degeneration or glaucoma. It may happen due to infection. There are multiple different reasons for low vision, and not every person is the same. 

Can we prevent Low vision?

There isn’t an easy answer.

Some of the causes of Low Vision in the past are now treatable. For example, many people find themselves having cataract surgery in their older years. Having regular diabetic screenings, and good diabetic control can help in the prevention of diabetic retinopathy, which is a cause of low vision for some diabetics.

Regular sight tests can help in the monitoring and screening process for diseases such as AMD and glaucoma. This is particularly important where EARLY diagnosis is KEY for maintaining good sight. Making use of our 3D OCT scanner in your regular sight test will help. It can certainly AID in even earlier detection of those aforementioned pathologies.

With some conditions, for example, Retinitis Pigmentosa or Keratoconus prevention isn’t so much the issue. But the improvements in medical science and revolutionary treatments have helped in this battle for sight. 

Contact lens wearers can help protect themselves against sight-threatening infections by ensuring good lens hygiene and compliance. If you need a refresher please feel free to come and see us. We will happily run a contact lens refresher course with you. 

What can be done for low vision?

For low vision, much of the treatment is about managing expectations and optimising the remaining sight available to the person. There are low vision clinics available at the hospital and in some high street practices which teach a range of techniques. For example; 

eccentric fixation – how to use the non-damaged sections of the retina see better; magnifier use – there are many types for different tasks; 

use of home help appliances for example – liquid level indicator for making drinks;  use of telescopes – (not to see to the stars) these are similar to the peephole on your door and help with distance vision.

Many of those with low vision use a  cane, (there are lot’s and lots of types). Some use one as a symbol cane – which is thin and white, often carried to alert others to the fact they have low vision. There is also cane with a rollerball, often described as a second pair of eyes. These help the user to feel the texture of the floor, and be aware of any upcoming drops or raising in the walkway, helping prevent falls. Colours of canes can have different meanings, but they can also be to the desire of the user, (if you had a cane you might want to match it to your personality too). The RNIB #HOWISEE has a fabulous video on canes as told by their users, which you might want to watch. 

And finally…

My main advice is to have regular sight tests, and if you notice any changes in your vision to get yourself checked straight away. Don’t wait until it is too late, keep on top of your vision and help keep your eyes as healthy as possible. That way those preventable diseases are kept away, and those conditions where early treatment is KEY are nipped in the bud.

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