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Low Vision Eye Exams & Care

A Look at Low Vision: When Glasses & Contacts Aren’t Enough

What is Low Vision

Low vision refers to any significant vision impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, surgery, medication, or therapy. The types of impairment can vary, including overall blurring, tunnel vision or lack of peripheral vision.

Understanding 20/20

The phrase “20/20 vision” is thrown around a lot, but we seldom discuss what it actually means. These numbers represent your eyes’ acuity, with the top number representing the distance between you and the object you’re trying to see (usually 20 feet or 6 metres). The bottom number is the actual measurement of acuity.

If you can read the smaller lines at the bottom of an eye test chart from about 20 feet away, you have 20/20 vision, which is average. Every line above those bottom lines represents a worse level of acuity, like 20/40, 20/60, and so on.

Low vision is usually defined as eyesight that measures roughly 20/70 or poorer in the patient’s better eye. Canada defines legal blindness as eyesight measuring 20/200 or poorer in the patient’s better eye.

What Causes Low Vision?

Low vision can be the result of a number of diseases and conditions.

Low Vision Eye Exams

A low vision eye exam is different from a standard eye exam in that a low vision exam focuses mostly on how your condition affects day-to-day life and how you’re coping with it. This type of exam is very thorough, so you should expect the appointment to last quite a bit longer than a typical eye exam.

Functional Exam

Our optometrists are trained to perform what’s called a functional exam. A functional exam is designed to help us understand how your low vision affects your life every day. Based on the results of your tests, we’ll be able to tell if you’re having trouble seeing oncoming traffic when you cross the street, if you can tell when your stove burners are on by looking at them, and other things that could directly impact your safety.

Once we know what struggles you’re experiencing and what areas are causing the most difficulty for you, we’ll be able to recommend the most helpful daily living aids for your particular case.

Living With Low Vision

Since low vision cannot be corrected, the time after diagnosis can be very difficult, leaving the patient struggling to accept their new reality. There is, however, plenty of help! There are a number of systems and strategies to help low vision patients function normally on a day-to-day basis, and new technologies are being developed every day to provide assistance. Here are just some of the tools and systems available to help patients with low vision.

Because low vision often affects peripheral vision, patients can find it difficult to get around; stumbling over and bumping into things. A cane helps the patient detect objects in their path and avoid them before collision. This adds ease to mobility and helps prevent injury.

Low vision can make it difficult to see small objects or printing. Handheld magnifiers are a simple, portable way to solve this problem. Handheld digital magnifiers are also an option, coming in the form of a small tablet or electronic device.

You could magnify the text on your computer browser, but there’s also a simpler option. Text to speech software reads website copy to you, so you can fully understand the text without straining to read it. This could make work, or even simple web browsing easier and more enjoyable.

We Are Equipped to Diagnose and Treat Eye Diseases

With early diagnosis, many of these conditions can be controlled or treated to avoid significant vision loss. Most eye diseases do not show any symptoms until irreparable damage has been done. That’s why it’s crucial you have an annual eye exam with retinal imaging.

At Shelburne Primary EyeCare, we’ve invested heavily in top-of-the-line diagnostic technology to help us detect any early signs of eye diseases.

Visit Our Shelburne Practice

Come see us on First Avenue, across from the Post Office and the Legion.


207 First Avenue East,
Shelburne, Ontario L9V 3J9

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