Monday, February 12, 2007

Section 12-C: Low Vision Aids

If glaucoma is undiagnosed or poorly controlled, it may result in varying degrees of visual disability. Once vision loss occurs from glaucoma, it cannot be regained. If the loss is mild, the patient may not experience any limitation in their daily activities. If moderate, there may be some visual impairment. In advanced cases, functional vision can be severely compromised to the point of legal blindness. It is, therefore, important to have periodic scheduled monitoring for glaucoma with good adherence to a prescribed drug regimen. This can minimize the visual decline resulting from glaucoma.

When functional visual disability exists, evaluation by a Vision Rehabilitation Specialist is important. A vision rehabilitation specialist is an eye doctor trained in providing low vision evaluations and presenting devices which may assist patients in their daily activities. The purpose of a Vision Rehabilitation Specialist is to improve individual’s activities of daily living (ADLs) so that the disability’s effects are minimized. These specialists can assess a person’s needs within both home and occupational settings and provide recommendations to improve their level of functioning within these areas. A consultation may provide instruction on the optimal eyeglass prescription (near and far), lighting for various tasks, and an assessment of driving. Various low vision aids may be beneficial, including high prescription reading glasses, filtered lenses, handheld and free-standing magnifiers, talking clocks/books and other appliances, large print materials, electronic reading machines, telescopes, closed circuit televisions/video magnifiers, computer access technology, and devices for braille. These aids allow patients to optimize their functioning in both home and occupational settings. For example, adequate task lighting and prescription strengths for reading may be evaluated so that reading is easier and more enjoyable. Filtered lenses can help with light sensitivity or problems with glare. Both handheld and free-standing magnifiers are helpful for patients who require increased magnification for better reading. They come in different strengths. Handheld magnifiers have the benefit of being portable but are bothersome for those with hand tremors. Free-standing magnifiers are more useful in these cases but have the disadvantage of not being easily portable. Talking clocks/books and other appliances are also helpful for visually disabled persons. They allow people to rely on their hearing to obtain information. Large print books are helpful for those who need extra magnification for easier reading. These are available in books stores and libraries. Closed circuit TVs/video magnifiers have a camera which magnifies images that are then relayed to a monitor for viewing. This is useful for reading material such as newspapers or for important activities such as reading bills or signing checks. A Low Vision evaluation aims toward improving patients’ lifestyles by analyzing their needs and providing the means and methods to meet them.

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