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Who is affected by low vision?

More than 13 million Americans of all ages are affected by low vision. If you do not have clear vision with contact lenses or regular glasses, you are said to have low vision. This encompasses a broad range of problems with visual functioning from slight difficulty reading the newspaper to significant challenges in many areas such as housekeeping, cooking or mobility.

What causes low vision?

There are numerous causes of low vision including birth defects, glaucoma, cataracts, injuries and inherited diseases. The most common cause, macular degeneration, is generally found among the elderly. Macular degeneration does not cause total blindness because only central vision, not peripheral vision, is affected.

Where can I get help?

The Mason Eye Institute at University Hospitals and Clinics in Columbia, Missouri, provides low vision services that maximize the use of a person's vision through education, training and visual aids. Assessment is made of the patient's vision and how it affects his/her activities. Specific goals are set by the individual, and the use of low vision devices to meet these goals is evaluated.

hese services are not meant to take the place of your regular eye examination by your eyecare professional. The Low Vision Clinic does not provide standard eyeglasses or any kind of medical or surgical service.

How do low vision aids work?

Low vision aids enhance the use of existing residual vision. They will not restore the health of the eye or lost sight. There are five main types of optical devices:

Magnifying spectacles are stronger than ordinary glasses and require closer working distances.

Hand magnifiers offer higher magnification than over-the-counter magnifiers.

Stand magnifiers rest directly on reading material.

Telescopes are available for distance viewing.

Electronic aids, such as closed-circuit televisions and hand-held scanners, produce enlarged images on a screen.

Many non-optical aids also are available to simplify everyday activities. Large-print checks and books, bold-line paper, and high-contrast or talking watches are just a few of these aids.

Why is education about low vision important?

Learning about environmental factors that affect vision such as glare, distance, lighting and contrast is the best way you can improve your abilities.

Did you know?

Sitting as close as one foot from the television screen will not cause eye damage but markedly increases the television's image size. A 60-year-old person with normal vision may need twice the amount of light he or she needed at age 20 to complete a task.

When should I see a low vision specialist?

Nearly 85 percent of people with low vision, even those who have been told nothing more medically or surgically can be done to improve their eyesight, can be helped with low vision devices. If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulty with tasks due to vision problems, and the use of standard glasses does not help, see your low vision specialist as soon as possible. Your eyecare professional can help you decide which low vision aids are best for you.

To schedule a low vision examination, please telephone (573) 882-1029.

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