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At a glance: Low Vision

  • Signs:

    Blurry vision, not seeing well enough to do everyday tasks like reading and driving

  • Diagnosis:

    Dilated eye exam

  • Treatment:

    Vision aids, vision rehabilitation

What is low vision?

Low vision is a vision problem that makes it hard to do everyday activities. It can’t be fixed with glasses, contact lenses, or other standard treatments like medicine or surgery. 

You may have low vision if you can’t see well enough to do things like: 

  • Read 

  • Drive 

  • Recognize people’s faces 

  • Tell colors apart 

  • See your television or computer screen clearly 

What are the types of low vision?

The type of low vision that you have depends on the disease or condition that caused your low vision. The most common types of low vision are:  

  • Central vision loss (not being able to see things in the center of your vision) 

  • Peripheral vision loss (not being able to see things out of the corners of your eyes) 

  • Night blindness (not being able to see in low light) 

  • Blurry or hazy vision 

What causes low vision?

Many different eye conditions can cause low vision, but the most common causes are: 

Low vision is more common in older adults because many of the diseases that can cause it are more common in older adults. Aging doesn’t cause low vision on its own. 

Eye and brain injuries and certain genetic disorders can also cause low vision.  

How will my eye doctor check for low vision?

Your doctor can check for low vision as part of a dilated eye exam. The exam is simple and painless. Your doctor will ask you to read letters that are up close and far away, and will check whether you can see things in the center and at the edges of your vision.  

Then, they will give you some eye drops to dilate (widen) your pupil and check for other eye problems — including conditions that could cause low vision.

What’s the treatment for low vision?

Unfortunately, low vision is usually permanent. Eyeglasses, medicine, and surgery can’t usually cure low vision — but sometimes they can improve vision, help you do everyday activities more easily, or keep your vision from getting worse.  

Treatment options will depend on the specific eye condition that caused your low vision. Ask your doctor if there are any treatments that could improve your vision or help protect your remaining vision.  

How can I make the most of my remaining sight?

If you have low vision, you can find ways to make the most of your vision and keep doing the things you love to do. 

If your vision loss is minor, you may be able to make small changes to help yourself see better. You can do things like: 

  • Use brighter lights at home or work 

  • Wear anti-glare sunglasses  

  • Use a magnifying lens for reading and other up-close activities 

If your vision loss is getting in the way of everyday activities, ask your eye doctor about vision rehabilitation. A specialist can help you learn how to live with your vision loss. This can include things like: 

  • Training on how to use a magnifying device for reading 

  • Guidance for setting up your home so you can move around easily 

  • Sharing resources to help you cope with your vision loss 

Last updated: November 15, 2023