Low vision is defined as a partial loss of vision, not correctable by any spectacles, contact lenses, eyedrops or surgery; beyond a level which leads to impairment of daily activities.
In Singapore, common eye diseases that lead to low vision would be age-related macular degeneration (24%), and glaucoma (14%). Patients with macular degeneration would experience central vision loss. They would face challenges with tasks like reading and recognizing faces. Whereas patients with glaucoma would experience side vision loss and have a higher tendency of tripping and bumping into objects.
In essence, we try our best to prevent vision loss to the stage of low vision. That is why we emphasize so greatly on pre-emptive screening and early detection of disease. However, sometimes despite our best efforts, due to the aggressive nature of the disease, some patients may still develop low vision. We encourage patients who have low vison not to despair. There are ways we can help.
Know anyone suffering from low vision? First, we must understand the psychological aspects of low vision, in order to help them. Patients who are starting to lose their vision will undergo seven stages of grief, namely shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance. At the initial stage, patients may be unable to accept the fact that they are undergoing irreversible vision loss. They may be trapped in denial, which then progresses to feelings of frustration and sudden swings of emotions. Subsequently, they may try to search for a way out, looking for alternative therapies or drugs to resolve their vision loss. After feelings of depression, they may start to accept their condition reluctantly but tend to turn away from any help or solutions. After some time, patients come to the realization of the true situation they are in and will begin to look for real solutions. At the final stage, patients are ready to come to terms with their condition, take ownership of themselves and seek proper treatment. Such treatment may involve various rehabilitation services such as home lighting assessment & intervention, functional visual & mobility assessment and visual task training. These sort of training and rehabilitation are of great help to the low vision patient and shouldn’t be overlooked.
There are many low vision aids that are made readily available for patients at our clinic, including all sorts of magnifiers, readers and high-tech computer mouse devices which project documents onto a monitor at a magnified version. Our low vision expert will be able to counsel patients and assess which device is most appropriate for each individual.
Apart from these devices, there are other methods that can assist in low vision cases. Tactile stickers can be used in the environment that patients are in, as it employs fingertip detection to locate certain critical buttons or spots. White cane comes in handy in severe low vision cases as it provides guidance to patients, to scan their surroundings for obstacles. Technology also plays a huge role these days. Smartphones are now equipped with special features that allow adjustments to the font size, contrast, magnification and brightness settings.
An important point to mention is that as caregivers or healthcare providers, we must be involved in the patient’s low vision rehabilitation. Family members play a crucial role in this journey along with the patient as well. While the patient learns to adapt to the new habits in their daily environment, we need to provide them with a lot of support at the same time. Providing constant encouragement and being a good motivator will be helpful in sustaining their learning curve. Lastly, respecting them and acknowledging their feelings is another important aspect that should not be neglected as they will be facing many social and environmental challenges. With a good support system, patients will then be able to gain back the confidence they need to do the things that they want to do.
If you are experiencing low vision or know anyone who is suffering from low vision, do not despair. Come for an assessment with our eye specialist as there may be ways that vision can be optimized and improved to its full potential. At Asia Retina, we believe that there is always hope and we go out of our way to improve the lives of our patients.