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.

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.