There’s a good chance you don’t have 20/20 uncorrected vision—182 million Americans use glasses or contact lenses to correct their eyesight, according to The Vision Council. For most of us, we can get to 20/20 vision by wearing glasses or contacts, which is considered normal.
But if you have low vision or visual impairment, you can’t reach 20/20 vision even with glasses, contact lenses, or treatment. “Eye or brain injuries or diseases can cause low vision,” said Daniel Twelker, OD, an optometrist with Banner - University Medicine Ophthalmology Clinic in Tucson, AZ. “Everyone is at risk for low vision, but your risk greatly increases as you get older.”
Symptoms of low vision are blurred vision, a reduced visual field (low peripheral vision) and difficulty with night vision.
Low vision falls into different ranges depending on how severe it is:
- 20/30 to 20/60: Mild low vision
- 20/70 to 20/160: Moderate low vision
- 20/200 or worse: Severe low vision. In the U.S., if you have this level of visual impairment even when wearing corrective glasses or contacts you are considered legally blind.
Low vision makes everyday activities difficult. These tips can help make it easier for you to protect your vision and function as well as you can if you have a visual impairment:
- Make sure you have a comprehensive eye exam every year or two, or more often if you have an eye disease. “The most common causes of low vision in the United States are age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma,” Dr. Twelker said. “Early detection and treatment can help stop or slow vision loss from these conditions.”
- Be sure you keep your glasses or contact lenses up to date. Good-quality vision correction at the right prescription can help you see as well as possible.
- Visit a low vision or visual rehabilitation specialist. “Most optometrists and many ophthalmologists would be comfortable prescribing a strong pair of reading glasses or recommending a magnifier,” Dr. Twelker said. For more specialized support, a rehab expert can explain and demonstrate various devices to see what works best for you.
- Make it easier for you to use the vision you have. “When everything has been done to improve vision, and low vision still exists, there are many steps you can take to improve your visual function,” Dr. Twelker said. You can:
- Use a handheld magnifier or attach magnifiers to your glasses
- Increase contrast—you can pour milk into a dark mug, or coffee into a white mug, for example
- Label buttons on appliances and tools with colored stickers
- Magnify text and images on computers, tablets and smartphones and use screen readers to read the text aloud
The bottom line
If you don’t have normal vision with glasses or contacts, you can take steps to protect your vision and make the most of the eyesight you have. A specialist can teach you about your options and help you find the solutions that support you best. If you need a referral to an eye care professional, Banner Health can help.
Learn more about protecting your sight with these articles:
- Why Won’t My Eye Stop Twitching?
- Should You Be Worried About Those Pesky Eye Floaters?
- Cataracts: What You Need to Know