Low Vision

It is estimated that there are now over 10 million people in the US who have serious visual impairments but who are not blind. Reductions in vision can result from genetic, developmental, disease, stroke and traumatic causes. A person with low vision has a small amount of useful vision but it is insufficient for their daily needs. Conventional eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery won’t help. Watching television, seeing street signs or people’s faces, and even reading large print may all be difficult. Individuals may be ineligible to drive. Special testing and treatment can help manage these frequently challenging vision problems. Often such care can make a profound improvement in the lives of persons with these difficulties.

Eyecare providers who provide vision enhancement services are called Low Vision Specialists. Low vision services may be found in many private optometry and ophthalmology practices, departments of ophthalmology in medical centers, VA Medical Centers, Agencies for the Visually Impaired and schools and colleges of Optometry.

Discover the Realities of Life with Low Vision – New Report by The Vision Council

The Vision Council recently released Focused inSights 2024: Low Vision, a new in-depth report that provides a thorough analysis of the experiences, diagnoses, information sources, and treatment options for patients with low vision, as well as the impact on their caregivers. Combining insights from two focus groups and a nationally representative survey, this report offers a unique window into the lives of those affected by low vision.

Key Findings:

  • Diagnosis and Referral: 90% of patients are diagnosed by eyecare professionals, yet referrals to low vision specialists remain underutilized.
  • Information Sources: Doctors are the primary source of information for 72% of patients, but online resources are increasingly used.
  • Terminology: While "low vision" is widely understood, some patients prefer alternative terms, indicating a need for more nuanced language.
  • Treatment Challenges: Despite access to diverse treatments, 20% of patients report difficulty finding specialists.
  • Daily Life Impact: Symptoms like blurred vision and difficulty in low light significantly affect daily activities and emotional well-being.

Download a free summary of the report here!

The full report can be downloaded from The Vision Council’s Research Download Center, complimentary for members and available for purchase by non-members.

Low Vision Devices

Special devices, called low vision aids, can often allow individuals to regain much useful vision.  These range from simple magnifiers to complex optical and electronic systems.  Low vision experts perform special testing to determine the optimal magnification and type of device(s) appropriate for the individual’s needs and functioning goals.  In many states, special telescopic eyeglasses, called bioptics, may enable some visually impaired individuals to obtain or retain their driver's license. Regulations vary from state to state. Individuals should be aware that low vision care services are available that can help support their visual needs while they seek medical treatment.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD/ARMD)

AMD is a leading cause of vision loss among Americans over age 60 and accounts for nearly half of all low vision cases. It occurs when the part of the eye responsible for sharp, straight-on vision – the macula – breaks down and causes a loss of central vision.

Diabetic Retinopathy

According to the National Eye Institute, more than 30% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy. It is a major cause of blindness and is directly related to high blood sugar, which damages blood vessels. That damage affects the retina and can even lead to its detachment.


Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. With glaucoma, portions of vision are lost over time, usually with no warning signs or symptoms prior to vision deterioration. For many, a decrease in peripheral vision is the first sign of glaucoma.


Over 20 million people in the US have cataracts according to Prevent Blindness America. It appears as a clouding of the lens of the eye.

Retinitis Pigmentosa

This is a group of inherited diseases affecting the retina resulting in progressive vision loss. This type of vision impairment often begins in childhood with poor night vision and progresses over time.

Stargardt Disease

Stargardt disease, also known as fundus flavimaculatus, is a retinal disorder that affects the macula early in life.


Albinism is a genetic defect that prevents the body from producing melanin, the pigment that gives hair, skin, and the iris of the eye their color. About one in 17,000 people have albinism.

Want Help to See Better?

Ask for a referral for Low Vision care from your own eyecare provider, neurologist or other health care provider. You can also search our Low Vision Prescriber Network for a low vision specialist near you.

Remember: This special examination and treatment does not replace the eye care that you presently receive.