Coping with Low Vision

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 By Kinshasa A. Coghill, M.S.

For most of her 76 years, Carolyn was a regular visitor at Philadelphia’s many museums. She also loved gardening and especially enjoyed Saturday afternoon strolls along the tree lined streets of her quiet neighborhood with it’s flower covered lawns and wind chimes.

But in the past several years, her walks have only left her frustrated and worried. On several occasions, she has tripped and fell on the sidewalks made uneven by tree roots. She used to think the uneven pavement was quaint. But she now worries that her eye-sight is failing and may force her to give up some of her favorite activities.

The National Eye Institute, in conjunction with Prevent Blindness America, analyzed the 2010 U.S. Census data and determined that 2.04 percent of the population or 142 million individuals have visual problems that affect every aspect of their lives.

Chances are that if you are affected by cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration or the complications of diabetes, you will at some point experience difficulty seeing. Doctors call this condition “low vision,” which can be defined as ever-present visual impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, medical or surgical treatment.

Some individuals with low vision experience difficulty reading because the print appears to be too small or broken. Others may have problems seeing the face of their watch, cooking or writing their name on the line.

If you are experiencing any of these problems, consult your ophthalmologist or optometrist and make sure you get annual eye exams.

While your eye care specialist will prescribe an appropriate treatment regiment, here are a few tips to help the visually impaired maintain their independence.

  1. If you enjoy reading, make sure you have proper lighting. Choose the light that provides the best illumination and make sure it is close to your reading material.
  2. While reading, take a break and rest your eyes to prevent fatigue.
  3. Talk to your doctor about prescribed reading glasses. Reading glasses purchased from the nearest convenience store usually do not have the necessary optical lenses to provide enough magnification.
  4. Consult a low vision therapist who can help with strategies for everyday chores such as cooking, cleaning, writing and scheduling appointments.
  5. Seek out vision rehabilitation therapy, which demonstrates equipment, strategies, and techniques that can help individuals complete activities of daily living with increased efficiency, independence and self-confidence.

Kinshasa A. Coghill, M.S. is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist and a Certified Low Vision Therapist with more than 10 years of experience working with seniors with low vision. More information is available at

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