• Low Vision Symptoms

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    Written By: David Turbert
    Jan. 25, 2017

    With low vision, you cannot see well enough to do everyday tasks — even with regular glasses, contact lenses, medicine or surgery.

    There are many signs of vision loss, including finding it difficult or impossible to:

    • Read
    • Write
    • Shop
    • Watch television
    • Drive a car
    • Recognize faces

    It may be difficult to set dials or manage glare.

    With low vision, you might have trouble picking out and matching the color of your clothes. The lights may seem dimmer than they used to, making work or household chores more difficult.

    The most common types of low vision include:

    Patterns of vision and vision loss

    Central vision

    This is the detailed vision we use when we look directly at something. Macular degeneration (AMD) affects central vision. Diabetic retinopathy can affect central or peripheral vision.

    Peripheral vision

    This is the less detailed vision we use to see everything around the edges. Glaucoma affects peripheral vision first. Strokes can affect one side of the peripheral vision.

    Contrast sensitivity

    This is the ability to distinguish between objects of similar tones like milk in a white cup or to distinguish facial features. All eye problems can decrease contrast sensitivity.

    Depth perception

    This is the ability to judge the position of objects. New vision loss in one eye can affect depth perception, such as the height of a step.

    Visual processing

    The lens in our eye focuses light rays onto our retina. The retina converts these light rays into signals that are sent through the optic nerve to our brain, where they are interpreted as the images we see. A problem with any of these processes affects our vision in various ways.

    The phantom visions of Charles Bonnet syndrome

    About 20% – 30% of people with vision loss see lifelike images they know are not real. This is called Charles Bonnet syndrome (CBS). This syndrome is not a loss of mental capacity, but just part of vision loss for some. It is helpful to think of these images as the brain's attempt to replace missing images from the damaged eye.