Low Vision and Its Challenges

Low Vision and Its Challenges in Olympia

While most of us know when we need to see an eye doctor, perhaps it’s because words on a page seem blurry or signs off the highway seem unclear, we may not know what to do or who to turn to when our vision begins to fade. For those who have been diagnosed with macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and conditions for which glasses or drops have already been prescribed, patients may assume that having low vision is either par for the course or simply not treatable. But that is precisely where low vision care comes into play.

American Family Vision Clinic

Low Vision Defined

Low vision is very much what it sounds like. It makes everyday activities, from deciphering colors, to reading, to driving, to being unable to recognize others, a challenge. Low vision cannot be fixed or reversed with glasses, surgical interventions, or medication. It can be addressed however, through the use of assistive devices that enable you to enjoy activities you may have thought you’d have to give up on.

How do You Know if You are Experiencing Low Vision?

Our eyes help us see and perceive objects in various levels of light and darkness and must use available cues, both internal and external, to discern what it is they are seeing. If, for example, you experience any of the following, it may be time to see an optometrist like Dr. Heather McBryar, who specializes in low vision treatment.
  • An inability to see things directly through the center of your eye
  • Difficulty adjusting to contrasting colors
  • Decreased peripheral vision
  • Being unable to see well at night
  • Blurry or fuzzy vision
  • Sensitivity to glare
  • Difficulty adjusting your vision when you move from indoors to outdoors and vice versa
How do You Know if You are Experiencing Low Vision?
How Low Vision is Treated

How Low Vision is Treated

  • High power spectacle magnification that increases the size of words and letters
  • Glare filters that both reduce glare and increase contrast
  • Handheld magnifiers that increase print
  • Devices and apps that allow for contrast changes in newspapers and circulars
  • High power spectacle magnification that increases the size of words and letters
How Low Vision is Treated
In addition, vision rehabilitation services throughout the United States provide home visits, equipment, and concrete services to patients who meet specific guidelines. If you meet criteria, you may be eligible for items such as:
  • Optometrist recommended filters and magnifiers
  • Talking Watches
  • Large buttoned phones and kitchen appliances
  • Button dots that can be placed on appliances that use timers and temperature gauges

Vocational Rehabilitation and Treatment

For individuals who have lost their jobs due to low vision vocational rehab can help. This intervention is also helpful for those who may want to learn new skills and transition to different fields.

Vocational rehabilitation can be quite effective for teenagers transitioning from high school to the workforce, as well as those who want to pursue a college education or trade.

How do You Know if You are Experiencing Low Vision?
How Low Vision is Treated

Education and Support

Although there are a number of ways patients with low vision can live successful, productive lives, they may not know what options are available to them. Additionally, and particularly for patients who were once fully- sighted, there is a very real grief process that often takes place. Being unable to see or perceive the world around you as you once did can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, resentment, and fear.

Part of helping patients is not only giving them physical tools, but emotional support that acknowledges how they are feeling and validates their struggles. And though we don’t want folks to live in those emotional moments, we feel strongly about acknowledging and supporting them in order to help them move forward with their low vision care.

Common Questions

One of the biggest challenges we face is the public’s lack of awareness of low vision treatment. Realistically, patients are sometimes unsure or don’t know what low vision means because there are very few of us who provide this treatment. And when they do hear about what we do, they often don’t think to ask themselves if they should make an appointment to see us.
The short answer to this question is yes. While your optometrist focuses on eye exams and medical interventions, low vision optometrists work on visual rehabilitation. When you receive low vision services, your doctor evaluates what your vision is like today, what is needed to meet your goals, and then, how to change your plan of care over time in order to continue to meet those goals.
Certainly you are free to “just accept” the fact that your vision is declining, but you most certainly do not have to. There are ways to help you continue to engage in activities that give you meaning, pleasure. There may be a time when there are things you truly can no longer do, but low vision doesn’t have to be the end all to those activities.
Low Vision and Its Challenges
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

Why Low Vision Therapy Matters

Low vision optometry is a field that has been around for years, but is still coming into its own. That is why we get asked all sorts of questions about what we do and how.

Low vision care involves so much more than seeing the world the way you used to. It is also about adapting to change and learning how to see things in an entirely different light. Patients with low vision visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of low vision services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


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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