What is Low Vision?

Posted by: Eye Health Northwest in General Eye Health on June 18, 2014

Low vision refers to a visual impairment that is not correctable through surgery, prescription drugs, glasses or contacts. It’s often characterized by partial sight, such as blurred vision, blind spots or tunnel vision. Low vision can impact people of any age, but it is primarily associated with adults over the age of 60.

Causes of Low Vision

Some of the most common visual impairments that cause low vision include:

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. Glaucoma causes portions of vision to become lost over time, usually without any warning. For many, a decrease in peripheral vision is one of the first symptoms of glaucoma.

Cataracts

Over 20 million people in the United States have cataracts according to Prevent Blindness America. Cataracts appear as the clouding of the lens of the eye.

Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss among Americans aged 60 and older. It accounts for nearly half of all low vision cases. It occurs when the part of the eye that is responsible for straight-on vision – the macula – breaks down and causes loss of central vision. There are two types of AMD, dry and wet. Wet AMD is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the macula. Central vision loss occurs rapidly with this form of AMD. In dry AMD, light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down leading to gradual loss of central vision.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of inherited diseases that affect the retina resulting in the progressive loss of vision. This type of visual impairment often starts in childhood with poor night vision and progresses over time.

Diabetic Retinopathy

According to the National Eye Institute more than 30% of Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes has some form of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a major cause of blindness and is directly related to high blood sugar, which damages blood vessels in the eye. This damage affects the retina and can even lead to retinal detachment.

There are many other causes of low vision including strokes, traumatic brain injury and other diseases such as Stargardts, albinism and more.

Signs of low vision include:

  • Blind spots in your field of vision
  • Gradual loss of central vision
  • Areas of distorted or blurred vision spots and blotches in your vision
  • Shadowed or darkened field of view or noticeable loss of peripheral vision
  • Cloudy and blurred vision or halos around bright lights

How can low vision be treated?

Different cases of low vision require different treatment approaches. Some people develop low vision over time due to aging or a genetic propensity for a certain condition while other people suffer sudden trauma to the eye, which can result in loss of vision or visual impairments. A thorough examination by an eye care professional can help determine the appropriate treatment plan.

Catching symptoms of low vision early may help sight to be preserved and in some cases lessen the advancement of vision loss. Though lost vision cannot be restored, a combination of vision rehabilitation and the use of low vision devices can return something that is almost as important — independence and an increased quality of life. The key is working in tandem with your eye doctor. Some low vision devices that can help individuals see more easily include magnifiers, specialty eyewear, mini-telescopes mounted on eyewear, and closed-circuit TV.

Treatment plans may also include prescription glasses, specialized optical systems, non-optical options, video magnification, and/or medical rehabilitative therapy to maximize the ability to perform daily activities.

Consult our Portland eye doctors for more information about low vision.


We Are Here For You
The safety of our patients, team members and our community is the highest priority at EyeHealth Northwest. Learn more about measures we are taking to keep you safe and what to expect during your visit.
learn more
Schedule an Appointment
Patient Portal
Pay Bill
contact us
Review Us

Our Locations

Aloha (OES)
18345 SW Alexander St,
Suite A
Aloha, OR 97003
(503) 642-2505 see more
Gresham
24601 SE Stark St.
Suite 245
Troutdale, OR 97060
(503) 255-2291 see more
Hillsboro
6111 NE Cornell Rd
Hillsboro, OR 97124
(503) 846-9400 see more
Lake Oswego (OES)
9 Monroe Parkway, Suite 160
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
(503) 636-2551 see more
Milwaukie
11086 SE Oak St
Milwaukie, OR 97222
(503) 656-4221 see more
Mt. Tabor
5935 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97206
503 777-5546 see more
Newberg (OES)
2318 Portland Rd, Suite 300
Newberg, OR 97132
(503) 538-1341 see more
North Portland
3246 N. Lombard
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 285-1671 see more
Northwest Portland
1955 NW Northrup St
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 227-2020 see more
Oregon City
1306 Division St
Oregon City, OR 97045
(503) 656-4221 see more
Peterkort
9555 SW Barnes Rd.
#201 (2nd floor)
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 227-2020 see more
Providence
5050 NE Hoyt St., #245
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 255-2291 see more
Providence Portland (OES)
5050 NE Hoyt St., Suite 445
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 231-0166 see more
Providence St. Vincent (OES)
9135 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 961
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 292-0848 see more
Southeast Portland
10819 SE Stark St,
Portland, OR 97216
(503) 255-2291 see more
Sunnyside
12050 SE Stevens Rd, Suite 100
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(503) 783-3300 see more
Tigard
15298 SW Royalty Parkway
Tigard OR 97224
(503) 227-2020 see more
Wilsonville
29250 SW Town Center Loop W
Wilsonville, OR 97070
(503) 582-0000 see more
Westside Surgery Center
13240 SW Pacific Hwy
Portland, OR 97223
(503) 639-6571 see more
EyeHealth Eastside Surgery and Laser Center
12050 SE Stevens Rd.
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(971) 206-6100 see more

Our Locations

Aloha (OES)
18345 SW Alexander St,
Suite A
Aloha, OR 97003
(503) 642-2505 see more
Gresham
24601 SE Stark St.
Suite 245
Troutdale, OR 97060
(503) 255-2291 see more
Hillsboro
6111 NE Cornell Rd
Hillsboro, OR 97124
(503) 846-9400 see more
Lake Oswego (OES)
9 Monroe Parkway, Suite 160
Lake Oswego, OR 97035
(503) 636-2551 see more
Milwaukie
11086 SE Oak St
Milwaukie, OR 97222
(503) 656-4221 see more
Mt. Tabor
5935 SE Division St.
Portland, OR 97206
503 777-5546 see more
Newberg (OES)
2318 Portland Rd, Suite 300
Newberg, OR 97132
(503) 538-1341 see more
North Portland
3246 N. Lombard
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 285-1671 see more
Northwest Portland
1955 NW Northrup St
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 227-2020 see more
Oregon City
1306 Division St
Oregon City, OR 97045
(503) 656-4221 see more
Peterkort
9555 SW Barnes Rd.
#201 (2nd floor)
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 227-2020 see more
Providence
5050 NE Hoyt St., #245
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 255-2291 see more
Providence Portland (OES)
5050 NE Hoyt St., Suite 445
Portland, OR 97213
(503) 231-0166 see more
Providence St. Vincent (OES)
9135 SW Barnes Rd., Suite 961
Portland, OR 97225
(503) 292-0848 see more
Southeast Portland
10819 SE Stark St,
Portland, OR 97216
(503) 255-2291 see more
Sunnyside
12050 SE Stevens Rd, Suite 100
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(503) 783-3300 see more
Tigard
15298 SW Royalty Parkway
Tigard OR 97224
(503) 227-2020 see more
Wilsonville
29250 SW Town Center Loop W
Wilsonville, OR 97070
(503) 582-0000 see more
Surgery Centers

Westside Surgery Center

13240 SW Pacific Hwy
Portland, OR 97223
(503) 639-6571 see more

EyeHealth Eastside Surgery and Laser Center

12050 SE Stevens Rd.
Happy Valley, OR 97086
(971) 206-6100 see more