Making the most of the beautiful things life has to offer can be quite difficult for those struggling to overcome the limitations set in place by vision loss or permanent blindness. Low vision is the term used to refer to a visual impairment that is not correctable through surgery, pharmaceuticals, glasses or contact lenses. It is often characterized by partial sight, such as blurred vision, blind spots or tunnel vision. Low vision can impact people of all ages, but is primarily associated with older adults. Common examples of low vision include Macular Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, Cataracts, and Glaucoma.
Understanding the Causes and Implications of the Leading Cause of Blindness
As Prevent Blindness America points out, cataracts are the number one cause of blindness in the U.S. According to this source, this eye health and wellness concern impacts the lives of no less than 24 million people over 40 in the U.S. The term “cataract” refers to the clouding of one’s eye lens, which changes or blocks the trajectory of light beams into the eye. Unlike other common eye problems, the signs and symptoms of cataract do not involve any pain, itchiness or redness. On the other hand, cataract sufferers will often have to deal with at least one of the following problems:
- Ghostly images, blurred or double vision, creating the sense that they have a film over their eyes
- The impression that the light is suddenly too strong, or too dim for close-up reading or work
- The fact that your vision isn’t getting better, although you change eyeglass prescriptions on a regular basis
- The presence of a yellowish or milky spot in the central part of your eye
Even though getting cataracts are not uncommon, this health concern shouldn’t be associated with permanent blindness. According to Hugh Parry, the CEO and president of Prevent Blindness America, cataract sufferers and those who wish to anticipate and prevent the development of cataracts can explore different avenues to keep this threat at bay. Dilated eye exams play an important part in this equation and usually help most individuals protect their sight in the long run. It can also help to avoid the disrupting effects of several other eye diseases at the same time. Moreover, people who already have cataracts should acknowledge that vision loss linked to their eye health problem can be restored via surgery. According to the Harvard Journal of Ophthalmology, the type of surgery recommended in such cases has a success rate of up to 95% and constitutes one of the most common and successful surgical procedures performed in the U.S. Also, according to the supporters of Cataract Awareness Month, patients who undergo cataract surgery are less exposed to a series of life-threatening issues, including falls.
How Therapy Can Make a Difference in the Lives of Patients with Low Vision
When most people think of getting help for the low vision Occupational (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT) is probably not at the top of the list. However, Occupational and Physical therapists are trained and experienced in working with individuals with low vision.
Therapists may see clients dealing with cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, hypertension, or diabetic retinopathy. They work to ensure that older adults are able to participate and do the things they enjoy despite any visual impairments they may have.
As experts in activity analysis and environmental modification, OTs can determine how visual impairments have limited a person’s ability to complete a specific daily task. The OT can then modify the task and/or environment to minimize or remove those limitations. For example, an OT might restructure a task to remove a vision-dependent step, such as programming a telephone to speed dial emergency numbers, improving lighting in a space or creating a contrast by placing a white or yellow strip across steps or curbs.
An OT also works with individuals to ensure they are using their remaining vision as efficiently as possible. This may include teaching a person with central field loss how to use another part of the retina to see letters more clearly when reading medication labels.
Therapists are an essential part of a diverse group of caregivers that are committed to empowering individuals living with low vision to optimize their safety, independence, and quality of life.
Healthcare Therapy Services, Inc. (HTS) provides rehabilitation services to skilled nursing facilities, extended care, hospitals, assisted living and continuing care retirement communities across the Midwest and Southern States. We are a trusted authority in post-acute care rehabilitation and keep our clients informed, compliant and positioned as leaders in their industry. Partner with HTS today!