Who Needs Low Vision Care?

This article describes the type of person who may benefit from low vision care, with a look at the causes of the condition, different ways that it presents, and types of interventions and vision care to improve daily life and enable the person to engage in different activities. We are committed to helping low vision patients regain visual activity and independence.

Who Needs Low Vision Care? in Olympia

What Is Low Vision?

Low vision is a problem that can significantly affect the daily activities of adults and children; it can make it difficult to read newspapers, watch television, drive a car, use a cell phone, and enjoy many other activities. In some cases, low vision can be a sign of a serious medical condition and lead to blindness. 

If you experience sudden vision loss or decreased visual acuity that interferes with your daily activities, a visit to our low vision optometrist is strongly recommended for an assessment of your low vision glasses, and how additional visual aid devices may be utilized to enable you to perform tasks that have become difficult.

American Family Vision Clinic

What Conditions Can be Low Vision?

There are a variety of conditions that can cause low vision. It is usually the result of damage to one or more of the structures in the eye that is caused by an injury or medical condition. It can also result from neurological conditions, such as strokes and Parkinson's disease. People with the following conditions are at higher risk for developing low vision. 

  • Retinal damage from Hypertension
  • Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Eye tumors
  • Brain tumors
  • Brain or eye injuries
  • Retinitis pigmentosa
  • juvenile retinoschisis
  • ocular albinism
  • Charles Bonnet syndrome
  • History of stroke

Types of Low Vision

There are three types of low vision:

  • Low Central Vision (difficulty seeing objects within the central field of vision)
  • Low Peripheral Vision (difficulty seeing objects from the sides of the eyes)
  • Night Blindness (difficulty seeing objects only at night or in low light situations)

Symptoms of low vision

Low vision can affect both adults and children.  It is most commonly associated with age. For example 40% or more of low vision is from Age Related macular degeneration (key part is the age related as it impacts elderly).

People with visual impairments usually report one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty seeing details
  • Blurred or hazy vision
  • Tunnel vision
  • Poor depth perception 
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Body posture problems
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue when reading
  • Change to decreased ability to read, use a computer etc. 
  • Double vision
Types of Low Vision
Treating Low Vision

Treating Low Vision

Differential Diagnoses

Two doctors are needed to accurately treat patients with low vision.  The first physician to whom patients with low vision are sent is an ophthalmologist. This doctor treats underlying conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, and administers shots or drops as necessary. Thereafter, patients are seen by a low vision optometrist for follow up. This ophthalmologist and low vision optometrist’s care is needed in order to monitor the conditions for which the patient is being seen, maximize remaining vision for functional purposes, and help them retain and maintain their vision. 

Before treatment begins, several factors must be considered when low vision is observed. For example, problems with visual function that make it difficult to perform daily activities or interfere with your work, education, or independent living (driving, shopping, walking, shoppin) should be assessed by our low vision optometrist as soon as possible.  Additionally, if your low vision cannot be corrected with conventional corrective devices, such as eyeglasses or contact lenses, you may be dealing with a more severe eye problem. 

In the elderly, low vision may indicate the presence of a cataract that needs to be surgically removed. Other conditions that may be present include diabetes, hypertension, or age-related macular degeneration. In children however, low vision may indicate a congenital malformation, glaucoma, or eye and brain tumor.


Treating Low Vision


If a patient’s low vision cannot be corrected medically or surgically, your doctor can refer you to our low vision optometrist for further treatment. It is important to keep in mind that there are multiple vision aids that can be prescribed that are known to enhance visual rehabilitation. These products can help you perform your daily activities as well as improve your overall quality of life.

Visual devices such as lighted handheld magnifiers, digital desktop magnifiers, and bioptic telescopes, custom magnifying glasses, and prisms, have proven helpful as a reading aid. Other non-optical products, such as audio recordings and speech command software, can also enhance one’s visual experience by greatly decreasing dependence on vision.  Other chronic symptoms of low vision, such as light sensitivity and color contrast difficulties, can be further treated through the use of eyewear with a UV filter and special tints.

Who is at Greatest Risk for Low Vision?

Low vision can affect virtually anyone at any age, though it is most common in the elderly. This is due to the fact that eye conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration typically occur within this demographic and can lead to a variety of visual impairment.

How is Low Vision Diagnosed?

An eye examination by a low vision optometrist includes distance testing with a vision chart and other visual acuity measurement devices that can diagnose low vision. Other tests that are used to measure low vision include lighting techniques, magnifiers, and special charts that test visual acuity, depth perception, and visual field.

Types of Low Vision
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

Low Vision Care

Interventions for low vision depend mainly on the conditions that cause it. Low vision optometrists can prescribe custom eyeglasses or low vision devices to help you achieve the best visual acuity possible. If additional support is needed, a low vision optometrist can also provide you with appropriate low vision aids and devices. If other medical conditions affect your vision, an ophthalmologist can prescribe the appropriate medical intervention so that you can see now and hopefully, for many years ahead. 


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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