Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What is low vision rehabilitation?

By: Lynne Stevens, O.D., F.A.A.O. Low Vision Optometrist at the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation

Most of us have family members or know someone who is affected by macular degeneration, glaucoma, or another type of sight-threatening condition. We are lucky to have wonderful optometrists and ophthalmologists here in Birmingham that can treat and manage a wide range of eye conditions. However, having a diagnosis and proper medical treatment often should not be the end of the management of the patient. Even with the best treatments many still have functional difficulties with everyday life activities such as reading, watching television, and driving.

Low vision rehabilitation is not exclusive to only individuals with reduced visual acuities. It also includes those with visual field loss, such as in someone who is 20/20 but has a field cut secondary to a stroke. So there is no criteria to be classified as having low vision. Low vision rehabilitation is for anyone having functional difficulties related to their vision.

There is a vast array of magnifiers and adaptive devices that are available to help patients with their functional difficulties. They range from basic handheld magnifiers to electronic types of magnifiers. Optometrists specialized in low vision rehabilitation can evaluate and prescribe the appropriate amount of magnification and types of devices based on the patient’s goals for rehabilitation. Often times simple modifications to lighting, computer settings, or activities of daily living can make a big impact on one’s daily functioning. Low vision certified occupational therapists can train patients how to implement these modifications and magnifiers into their lives.

There are also resources available throughout the community which can benefit someone with low vision. There are audiobooks, free directory assistance, and cell phone data exemption plans just as a few examples. Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services offers programs and services to those with disabilities within their homes, schools, workplace, and communities.

Low vision rehabilitation can be instrumental in helping someone see better to manage their diabetes or other medications, which in essence, could help prevent further vision loss. It can also help someone cope with and adapt to their vision loss. If you, a patient, or someone you know is frustrated with their vision despite the receiving the optimal medical treatments consider low vision rehabilitation.


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