How the Low Vision Optometrist and Ophthalmologist Can Help You

If you have been diagnosed with any type of low vision, you have likely already been to an ophthalmologist, a medical specialist that diagnoses and treats eye conditions. The common misconception is that all one needs is an ophthalmologist that provides a low vision patient with comprehensive care for their condition. 

How the Low Vision Optometrist and Ophthalmologist Can Help You in Olympia

A low vision optometrist is essential for providing patients with low vision comprehensive care for their condition by providing the patient with comprehensive guidance on how to maximize their remaining vision. Our low vision optometrist will add a vital aspect of care by helping each patient navigate the best options, devices and adaptations to maximize the vision that remains in order to achieve daily tasks.

American Family Vision Clinic

What is low vision?

A person who has significant vision loss which cannot be corrected with standard measures (such as prescription glasses, contact lenses, or surgical procedures) can benefit greatly from the field of low vision. Receiving a diagnosis of severe vision loss can be a difficult life-changing reality to accept, regardless if it’s from birth or an acquired condition. It is so natural to focus on the many activities which are very challenging or off limits due to this diagnosis, however there is an entire field within optometry called ‘low vision’ devoted to emphasizing what is possible. A low vision optometrist optimizes the vision that is still available to improve every aspect of the patient’s lifestyle.

What is the role of the ophthalmologist?

If you or a loved one has significant vision loss, you most likely have spent time with an ophthalmologist who often is the one to diagnose the visual impairment and the cause behind it. The ophthalmologist is a medical specialist who diagnoses and treats eye diseases and disorders with medicine and/or medical procedures. However, a person who falls under the ‘low vision’ category, by definition, cannot improve their vision with medicine or surgical procedures. That being said, it is still very important to be monitored by an ophthalmologist who will continue to check the health of your eye and contribute to your eye care. Our low vision optometrist works in conjunction with your ophthalmologist to enable a low vision patient to regain their independence with low vision. 

What is the role of the ophthalmologist?
Why is it important to see a low vision optometrist?

Why is it important to see a low vision optometrist?

It is the low vision optometrist who will be able to guide you how to function and thrive using your vision that remains. Dr. Levi Zurcher will work with you to find the most effective solutions to maximize your visual abilities despite the diagnosis of visual impairment. Low vision extends beyond the medical diagnosis, using various optical or technological devices that will enable the patient to function in day to day life.  

The goal of a low vision optometrist is to find effective solutions that will enable patients to perform tasks and engage in activities that they never thought they would be capable of doing again. The positive impact that this has in renewing a patient’s confidence is just as important as being able to resume the performance of everyday tasks and hobbies.

Why is it important to see a low vision optometrist?

What to expect from an appointment with a low vision optometrist

Dr. Zurcher will ask for an extensive medical and ocular history, including a written diagnosis from the ophthalmologist, when relevant. The optometrist may discuss the diagnosis with the ophthalmologist who has been treating the patient and has been involved in the patient’s changes in ocular health. 

Dr. Zurcher will perform a low vision eye exam that can be customized to the patient’s visual abilities which will provide a clear understanding of what the patient is capable of visually. If there is a caretaker or family member who also is present at the appointment, it is crucial that they, as well as the patient, receive a thorough explanation about the visual impairment along with the visual abilities that remain. It is essential that the people in the individual’s life can understand what he/ she is capable of visually and which aspects are challenging. Setting the proper expectations is a key element of success in low vision. 

Choosing the right visual aids

Low vision optometrists are in a unique position to inform patients of the many effective interventions that have enabled people with vision loss to live their lives. Due to their knowledge and in-depth experience of a variety of treatments for low vision, they can prescribe vision aids to enlarge, magnify, illuminate, and make vision clearer. 

Dr. Zurcher will take the time to find out about the visual demands of your daily life and which activities have become challenging due to the visual impairment. There are various devices available to assist a person with low vision in succeeding at daily tasks, such as microscopes, proper lighting and contrast enhancement, electronic devices, just to name a few. Dr. Zurcher is experienced in figuring out which methods are most effective and how they can be customized to your needs.

What is the role of the ophthalmologist?

Common Questions

Low vision affects different aspects of vision: Peripheral: Peripheral vision is critical for detecting and aiding movement and motion. "Corner of the eye" vision is useful in sports and recreation. People with peripheral difficulties struggle with objects outside their central line of vision. Central: Primary vision is more detailed than peripheral vision. The blind spot from central vision loss affects our ability to detect faces. Depth perception: Impairments in depth perception affect our sense of space and distance, both of objects and of ourselves. Contrast sensitivity: Vision impairments that involve complications in detecting contrast, are often responsible for hazy vision.
There are many causes of this condition which affect all aspects of the visual field. These include: Age related macular degeneration Albinism Brain injury Diabetic retinopathy Glaucoma Retinal Detachment Retinitis Pigmentosa Stroke
Various optical aids that are available include: Audible/Visual/ Electronic Aids: These include any technology, app, or device used to assist people, such as audio, lamps, or special screens to project brighter images and aid daily living. Bioptic telescope glasses: These are often used to enable people to drive, by helping them to read signs and perform other critical driving skills. Many U.S. states allow these devices for driving, which enable people to switch from magnified views to normal vision. Additionally, bioptics are helpful for any activity requiring hands-free magnification for distance vision, such as watching a movie or recognizing the faces of friends and family. Telescopes: These can be handheld or mounted to aid long distance vision. Magnifying glasses: The glasses provide hands-free magnification for activities that require the use of hands. These include hobbies such as stamp collecting, model building, and puzzles. Hand-held/stand magnifiers: There are various vision aids to enlarge objects or fine print that can be hand-held or used with a fixed stand.
How the Low Vision Optometrist and Ophthalmologist Can Help You
Dr. Zurcher cartoon


Low vision refers to visual impairment which cannot be remedied or treated with standard optometric measures like glasses, contact lenses, medical treatment, or surgery. Fortunately, a low vision optometrist in conjunction with your ophthalmologist, can provide many customized interventions to enhance the quality of life of a person who has vision loss. Dr. Zurcher has vast experience in guiding a person beyond the diagnosis of vision loss and helping them achieve an improved quality of life. If you’ve been diagnosed with a low vision condition or you have been suffering from significant vision loss, please don’t hesitate to contact our office at (360) 491-2121 or to schedule your low vision consultation.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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