Steps to Improve Independence When Living with Visual Impairment

DENVER, Colo. -- The Colorado Optometric Association (COA) and 2020 Eyes Colorado are speaking out about how to improve independence and quality of life when experiencing permanent vision loss. 2020 Eyes Colorado is the COA's eye health public awareness initiative to promote healthy eyes and vision across the state throughout the year.

Visual impairment (low vision) may be defined as insufficient vision to do the things a person wants and needs to do. The loss of vision cannot be corrected by regular glasses, medical treatment, or surgery and can be congenital or the result of disease, and injury.

Common eye diseases that cause low vision may include macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and inherited retinal disease. These conditions can cause a permanent loss of central (detailed) vision, as well as a loss of peripheral (side) vision. People may have difficulty reading the newspaper, paying bills (even with reading glasses), recognizing faces, crossing streets, and seeing small print on their television.

Low vision care (also referred to as Vision Rehabilitation) helps people with low vision function as fully and independently as possible by providing devices, information, and technology.

Step 1: Get an Eye Exam by your Eye Care Professional

A thorough eye examination is imperative to diagnose the reason for your decrease in vision. The eye doctor will ensure that the patient is:

* evaluated for ocular and systemic disease

* receives proper medical treatment for any eye disease

* has the best eye glass prescription possible

Due to the underlying eye disease, new glasses cannot restore vision to a level that allows you see detail (small & fine print, faces, etc.) like you did before. The eye care professional may refer out to an optometrist specializing in low vision care. Also, requesting a referral for low vision rehabilitation is an option, if there is difficulty performing daily activities.

Step 2: The Low Vision Evaluation

A low vision exam with an optometrist specializing in low vision care, takes about one to two hours and is different than a typical eye exam. The low vision evaluation will focus on how the patient functions with the remaining vision and find strategies to maximize any remaining vision.

Patients can use the time during their low vision exam to discuss and understand their own specific vision goals and challenges. For example, improving facial recognition, writing, reading, color identification, and more. Bring any current glasses, magnifiers, or other low vision devices currently used, whether they are helpful or not.

Step 3: Discuss How to Make Reading Easier

A conversation about how to make reading with low vision easier can produce great results. A low vision specialist can make suggestions to address specific needs. For instance, a student might require a way to read notes on a whiteboard while in class and they can troubleshoot the challenges around this together.

Basic Modifications for Reading:

* Improve overhead & task lighting.

* Use of increased magnification such as stronger reading glasses, hand-held and stand magnifiers, hand-held and spectacle mounted telescopes, and electronic video magnifiers.

* Use of auditory and large print accessibility features on your smartphone, tablet, and desk-top computers.

* Use of audiobooks through the National Library of Congress Talking Book program.

Step 4: Discuss How to Improve Quality of Life at Home & Work

The eye doctor may refer a low vision patient to a:

* Certified Vision Rehabilitation Teacher

* Occupational Therapist who specializes in working with the visually impaired

* Certified Orientation and Mobility Specialist

These professionals work with the patient in their home, community, and workplace to ensure safety and independence.

Obtaining additional strategies and modifications are critical for maintaining independence. Adjustments and organizational practices can make a huge difference. The following techniques are commonly offered, but this is also the patient's chance to troubleshoot any current issues arising at home or work:

* Improve over-head and task lighting. Consistent lighting at home can reduce the risk of falls and disorganization.

* Use contrasting colors to help identity steps, railings, knobs, switches, and anything else that is difficult to detect visually.

* Remove hazards like rugs, cords, bulky furniture, or anything that could cause a fall or injury.

* Use large print labels and tactile dots to help identify objects, numbers on the oven or microwave, telephone, remote control, and computer keyboard.

* Create an organizational system to keep track of personal items.

* Label medications or use a color code system for identifying prescription and over the counter medications.

* Troubleshoot any challenges that prevent access to a healthy diet high in nutrient dense foods like leafy greens, berries, fish, nuts, and more.

For many people dealing with permanent vision loss, they feel they "CAN'T" do the things they want and need to do. With proper vision rehabilitation services, people will have many options to improve their quality of life and independence. Talk with an eye care professional today and ask for a referral to an optometrist specializing in low vision care.

Colorado's low vision specialists are listed below. Or find a Colorado optometrist here -- https://colorado.aoa.org/doctor-locator-search

COLORADO'S LOW VISION SPECIALISTS

Kara Hanson, OD, FAAO
UCH-Sue Anschutz Rodgers Eye Center 1675 Aurora Ct
Aurora, CO 80045
720-848-2020

David Lewerenz, OD, FAAO, Clinical Diplomate in Low Vision, American Academy of Optometry
UCH-Sue Anschutz Rodgers Eye Center 1675 Aurora Ct
Aurora, CO 80045
720-848-2020

Dr. David Simpson
UCH-Sue Anschutz Rodgers Eye Center 1675 Aurora Ct
Aurora, CO 80045
720-848-2020

Shannon Kessler, OD, FAAO
VA Eastern CO Healthcare System
14400 E Jewell Ave
Denver, CO 80012
303-283-5386

Brian Meier, OD
49 W. Mill Street
Bayfield, CO 81122
970-884-2020

George Hertneky, OD
212 Cameron St
Brush, CO 80723
970-842-5166

Eddy Najjar, OD
7500 South University
Blvd., Unit 104
Centennial, CO 80122
720-389-8023

Craig Eckroth, OD
450 Pershing St., Suite 100
Craig, CO 81625
970-824-3488

Dr. Gregg Pusateri
5614 N Union Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
719-471-3200

Margaret "Molly" Dixon, OD, FAAO
320 E. Fontanero, #201
Colorado Springs, CO 80907
719-599-2020

Deanna Alexander, OD, FAAO
702 W Drake Rd, Bldg B
Ft. Collins, CO 80526
970-221-4811

Jennifer Zwelling, OD, FAAO
Valley Vision
904 Pitkin Ave
Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
970-945-2020

Dale Lervick, OD, FAAO
7586 W Jewell Ave # 104
Lakewood, CO 80232
303-233-7575

Kirk Matoba, OD
200 N. Union Blvd
Lakewood, CO 80228
303-988-2777

Neuro-Sight Vision Care - Drs. Jarvis, Politzer, and Chonka
333 S Allison Pkwy # 120
Lakewood, CO 802226
303-989-2020

Dr. Alex Zemke
2290 Kipling St Unit 1
Lakewood, CO 80215
303-238-9900

Craig Eckroth, OD
365 Anglers Dr Suite A
Steamboat Springs, CO 80487
970-879-2020

MEDIA QUERIES:

For any media inquiries, please contact: Kelli Catlin kcatlin@visioncare.org

About the Colorado Optometric Association (COA):

The Colorado Optometric Association (COA) is the professional organization of optometrists in Colorado. Over 600 Colorado Doctors of Optometry are voluntary members of the Association.

Since 1892, the COA has assisted its members in providing the highest standard of professional care to their patients by sponsoring continuing education programs for doctors, advocating in local and state governments for programs and laws that represent patients' best interests, and providing information for the public. For more information, please visit http://www.visioncare.org/ or call 303-863-9778.

Related link: https://colorado.aoa.org/

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