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Low-Vision Devices

What is low vision?

Low vision is a condition that means your vision can't be helped with traditional eyeglasses, contact lenses, intraocular lens implants, or corrective surgery. But in some cases, people with low vision may get help with special visual devices.

What causes low vision?

There are several causes of low vision. They include:

  • Macular degeneration. This is the most common cause of low vision. It involves damage to the central vision. This damage makes it difficult to read, drive, or do other daily activities that need fine, central vision.

  • Aging. Aging is a risk factor for low vision. But people of any age may be affected.

  • Problems present at birth (congenital)

  • Injury

  • Diseases, including diabetes

  • Other eye diseases such as glaucoma or cataracts

What are the different types of low vision?

In most cases, people with low vision have problems with their central vision (also called reading vision). Other types of low vision may include:

  • Disabled or partial peripheral vision

  • Disabled or partial color vision

  • Disabled or partial ability to adjust to different light levels

  • Disabled or partial ability to adjust to different contrasts

  • Glared vision

What are low-vision devices?

Low vision can't be improved by using eyeglasses or contact lenses. People with low vision often rely on a variety of low-vision devices. Low-vision devices can be optical or nonoptical.

What are optical low-vision devices?

Optical low-vision devices use many types of lenses to improve vision. For example:

  • Magnifying devices. These include magnifying eyeglasses, hand magnifiers, magnifying lamps, and telescopic viewing devices.

  • Closed-circuit television. This offers enlarged images, exaggerated contrasts, and adjustable magnification.

What are nonoptical low-vision devices?

Nonoptical low-vision devices help a person with low vision see better without using lenses. This may include:

  • Larger-print items. Examples are magazines, newspapers, books, calendars, address books, cookbooks, dictionaries, games, playing cards, sheet music, or street signs.

  • Larger, illuminated watches and clocks

  • Writing guides

  • Devices that provide voice instruction. Examples are computers, smart phones, tablets, and electronic books. Many of these read material aloud, magnify, or illuminate material. Many of these products let you change word size and adjust lighting.

  • Devices that provide voice information. Examples are blood pressure cuffs, blood sugar machines, clocks, timers, calculators, scales, and key chains.