Recent Census Bureau data shows a population of approximately 76 million baby boomers (the generation born from 1946-1964). What does that have to do with low vision you may ask? Approximately 40 million people worldwide have some sort of blindness, and aging increases the incidence of macular degeneration and other vision impairment that qualifies them into a “low vision” status.
Low vision is a condition of the eye in which the vision falls below 20/70 in the better seeing eye. It impairs the recipient, rendering them unable to perform daily tasks that others take for granted. With this rising aging population, the awareness of low vision therapy, diagnosis, and treatments are more widely available.
Low vision treatment can help people recover from decreased visual function due to retinal disease, brain injury, neurological damage and other causes.
It is not only the elderly population that is affected, approximately 20% of low vision patients are children, under the age of 18. Childhood genetic disorders of the eye such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, Albinism, Bests Disease, ROP, Rod/Cone disorders, and Glaucoma are among the few causes of low vision in the pediatric population.
What can be done to help these millions?
There are eye care practitioners that specialize in low vision, as well as therapists. They train the patient to adjust their current lifestyles to make them more independent and utilize the current salvageable vision they do have. For example, if a person has lost their central vision due to macular degeneration, they can be trained to use their peripheral vision to accommodate for many tasks.
Because patients with low vision cannot be corrected with regular eye glasses, the use of telescopes, magnifiers, computer generated aids, training, biofeedback, and optical magnification devices are among some of the resources available to help. Occupational therapists also employ orientation and mobility assistance to help patients in their daily living skills.
Breakthrough technologies in the area of ophthalmic research are constructing devices to restore lost vision. One such technology is a bionic eye device that uses a pair of glasses with a camera on the front, that transmits video data to an implant in the back of that patients eye (the retina). This device uses technology similar to cochlear implants that stimulate auditory nerve signals to restore hearing. In the same way, visual impulses can be restored by stimulating neurons in the retina, brain, or optic nerve.
Maybe the Bionic Man TV series wasn’t too far out there and can someday be a reality............restoring vision to millions.
For more valuable information on low vision visit:
American Optometric Association AOA
American Occupational Therapy Association AOTA
American Academy of Ophthalmology AAO
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