As many of you know, I have very poor vision. This was discovered when I was about six years old. I stumbled over something, fell and broke my collar bone. I’ve worn thick glasses ever since. Often I’m not able to recognize someone from across the street or approaching me until they’re up pretty close. Some people mistake this for my being a snob.
There have been other similar problems, but all in all I’ve weathered through what amounts to be a minor handicap. My vision is hampered by spots on the retina (in the back of the eyes) which causes the eyes to have to see around the spots. It appears this was evident from birth.
Here is a rundown of the diseases which can cause declining vision.
What is Glaucoma? Glaucoma is a condition in which the fluid pressure inside the eye is either too low or too high, causing damage to the optic nerve. They will still be able to use their central vision, but it will seem like they are looking through a tunnel, and that tunnel will get smaller over time. Eventually, total blindness can occur. The effects can often be treated with eye drops or laser surgery.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy? Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes type 1 and 2 and a leading cause of blindness. Between 40-45% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some stage of diabetic retinopathy.
Laser surgery often works along with medication, diet, exercise and regular blood sugar testing.
What is a Cataract? A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye. Ninety-five percent of people over 65 years of age have cataracts to some degree that may cause blurring of vision. Other symptoms include glare, poor night vision and double vision.
Wearing sunglasses and a brimmed hat, eating green leafy vegetables, fruit and other antioxidant foods can help delay cataracts.
What is Macular Degeneration? Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people age 65 and older. Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, and family history. AMD may cause blurred, distorted vision, often with blank spots in the central vision making it harder to identify faces.
AMD occurs in two forms: dry and wet. An early symptom of wet AMD is that straight lines appear wavy. The dry form of AMD is much more common—90% of people have this type.
What you can do if you are living with low vision? When you first notice a change in your vision, you should contact your eye doctor immediately. See your doctor if you experience:
- Eye pain or persistent discomfort
- Bulging eyes
- Flashing lights, floaters, or a gray shadow
- Eye injury
- Any loss of vision—sudden or one eye
Some eye diseases can be managed with an early diagnosis and medication, but early detection is important.
I’m telling you all this to explain why I became enamored with a great organization here in Southern California that provides an assortment of valuable services to blind and low vision children and adults; it’s the Braille Institute located on North Vermont in Los Angeles. They have four regional centers in Orange County, Rancho Mirage, San Diego and Santa Barbara.
Live Well With Low Vision. Hope. Encouragement. Support. For people with low to no vision, that is what they will find at Braille Institute. Their programs are designed to help clients of any age maximize their remaining visio0n and learn how to use practical skills and techniques to make their daily lives more manageable. All of their services are provided free of charge and are funded through individual donors and foundations.
Children Ages 0-5
Specially trained Child Development Consultants work with families that have blind or visually impaired infants and toddlers to help their child reach development milestones in preparation for school.
Youth and Teens Ages 6-18
- Emphasis is on the development of independent living skills.
- Socio-recreational skills are developed through group activities.
- Program incorporates use of technology to build academic skills and preparation for eventual employment.
Young Adults Ages 18-30
- The core of this program is called “Your Personal Best,” a 3-5 year customized life plan with goals to be achieved through “Stepping Stones to Success.”
- Classes, seminars, workshops and internships are intended to build job readiness skills leading to employment.
Braille’s lifestyle programs help adult clients with little to no vision.
- Regain confidence in the kitchen
- Stay connected through technology
- Manage their home and finances
- Get around town or travel the world
- Rediscover fun and fitness through leisure activities
- Express themselves through creativity
Low Vision Consultations. When glasses can no longer correct your vision, you can make an appointment for their free one-hour service conducted by a Low Vision Rehabilitation Specialist.
- Functional vision assessments lead to recommendations for lighting or magnification devices.
- Hand-held magnifiers, specific lighting and other devices (such as smart phones and tables) can make objects bigger, brighter or bolder.
- Magnification and other devices can help you accomplish your daily tasks at home, school, in the workplace—or anywhere else.
Library Services: Books, magazines and other materials in audio, digital and Braille formats are offered.
Connection Pointe: State-of-the-art technology center where free instruction is offered on all of the latest mainstream and adaptive devices, such as smartphones, tablets, voice output software and much more.
Need More Information? Call VISION CONNECT, a national resource provided by Braille Institute to connect you with important information, free services and other resources designed to help you live well with low or no vision. On the phone or online, find answers. Call Braille at 1-800-272-4553 or visit www.vision-connect.org.