New NIH resources help growing number of Americans with vision loss

February 1, 2013

A 20-page large-print booklet and a series of videos to help people adapt to life with low vision are available from the National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the National Institutes of Health. The materials were released during Low Vision Awareness Month, February 2013.

The booklet, Living with Low : What you should know, urges people with low vision to seek help from a low vision specialist and provides tips to maximize remaining eyesight, enabling them to safely enjoy a productive and rewarding life. The videos feature patient stories about living with low vision. Another video, targeted to , emphasizes the importance of informing patients with about vision rehabilitation services. The booklet and the videos were developed by the NEI National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP).

Low vision means that even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine, or surgery, people find difficult to do. Reading the mail, shopping, cooking, and writing can seem challenging. The chief causes of vision loss in older people are age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma. Among younger Americans, low vision is most often caused by inherited eye conditions, infectious and autoimmune , or trauma.

A 2012 report cosponsored by the National Institutes of Health estimates that 2.9 million Americans are living with low vision. The number is projected to increase 72 percent by 2030 when the last of the turn 65. Most people with low vision are 65 years old or older.

"I encourage anyone with low vision to seek guidance about vision rehabilitation from a low vision specialist," said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. "For many people, vision rehabilitation can improve daily living and overall quality of life."

A low vision specialist is an ophthalmologist or optometrist who specializes in the care of patients with low vision. A low vision specialist can develop a rehabilitation plan that identifies strategies and assistive devices appropriate for a person's particular needs, which vary depending on the person's age and the source and severity of vision loss. As described in the booklet and videos, vision rehabilitation services include:

  • training to use magnifying and adaptive devices
  • learning new daily living skills to remain safe and live independently
  • developing strategies to navigate inside and outside the home
  • providing resources and support to help patients with vision loss

"A vision rehabilitation plan helps people reach their true visual potential when nothing more can be done from a medical or surgical standpoint," said Mark Wilkinson, O.D., a low vision specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and a NEHEP planning committee member. "Vision rehabilitation can make a world of difference to a person adjusting to vision loss and should be considered part of the continuum of care. I urge health professionals to help their patients with low vision seek vision rehabilitation services."

The NEI is committed to finding new ways to improve the lives of people living with visual impairment. The NEI currently dedicates more than $24 million to research projects aimed at low vision. Projects include learning how the brain adapts to vision loss, strategies to improve vision rehabilitation, and the development of new technologies to help people with low vision read, shop, and find their way in unfamiliar places.

Statistics on low vision are taken from the report, 2012 Fifth Edition of Vision Problems in the U.S., available on the NEI website at http://www.nei.nih.gov/eyedata. The new NEI booklet and videos along with other resources for people with low vision can be viewed and downloaded at http://www.nei.nih.gov/lowvision.

Spokespersons, including NEI researchers, low vision specialists, and people with low vision, are available to speak to the press.

Explore further: The Medical Minute: Hope for those with vision loss

Related Stories

The Medical Minute: Hope for those with vision loss

February 27, 2012
One of the most difficult things optometrists and ophthalmologists must tell a patient is that he or she has an eye disease that already has or could permanently rob them of their vision. Today, the most common diseases in ...

NIH urges dilated eye exams to detect glaucoma

January 15, 2013
The National Eye Institute (NEI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, observes Glaucoma Awareness Month each January by encouraging Americans at higher risk for glaucoma to schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam ...

Smartphones a big help to visually impaired

May 16, 2012
iPhones and other smartphones can be a huge help to the visually impaired, but few vision doctors are recommending them to patients, according to a study co-authored by a Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine ...

Millions with low vision stay active by using special tools

October 10, 2011
As a pre-teen, Amber McMahon was a voracious reader. When she stopped curling up with her favorite books, her family chalked it up to adolescent distractions. When she asked to sit closer to the blackboard in school, her ...

Fear of falling may cause social isolation in older adults with vision problems

December 11, 2012
A new study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science found that between 40 to 50 percent of older adults with visually impairing eye disease limit their activities due to a fear of falling. Vision scientists ...

Study suggests vision insurance associated with eye-care visits, better reported vision

December 10, 2012
Vision insurance for working-age adults appears to be associated with having eye care visits and reporting better vision, compared with individuals without insurance, according to a report published Online First by Archives ...

Recommended for you

Combination of type 2 diabetes and sleep apnoea indicates eyesight loss within four years

July 4, 2017
Research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered that patients who suffer from both Type 2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnoea are at greater risk of developing a condition that leads to blindness within an average ...

Nearly 60% of pinkeye patients receive antibiotic eye drops, but they're seldom necessary

June 28, 2017
A new study suggests that most people with acute conjunctivitis, or pinkeye, are getting the wrong treatment.

Magnetic implants used to treat 'dancing eyes'

June 26, 2017
A research team has successfully used magnets implanted behind a person's eyes to treat nystagmus, a condition characterised by involuntary eye movements.

Drug shows promise against vision-robbing disease in seniors

June 21, 2017
An experimental drug is showing promise against an untreatable eye disease that blinds older adults—and intriguingly, it seems to work in patients who carry a particular gene flaw that fuels the damage to their vision.

Reproducing a retinal disease on a chip

June 15, 2017
Approximately 80% of all sensory input is received via the eyes, so suffering from chronic retinal diseases that lead to blindness causes a significant decrease in the quality of life (QOL). And because retinal diseases are ...

New gene therapy for vision loss proven safe in humans

May 16, 2017
In a small and preliminary clinical trial, Johns Hopkins researchers and their collaborators have shown that an experimental gene therapy that uses viruses to introduce a therapeutic gene into the eye is safe and that it ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.