Low Vision Services
Do you have an eye condition or disease that has worsened your vision and for which you’ve been told that nothing more can be done? Take hope. You may have low vision, and may benefit from a low vision examination. Please read below for further information.
What is Low Vision?
“Low vision” is the term we use when a person has poor vision (that is, a vision impairment,) which does not improve despite wearing the right glasses or contact lenses, and which cannot be improved with surgery or medications either. Low vision tends to result in vision which is no longer good enough to perform daily tasks easily. Keeping up in school, reading a book, signing a cheque, driving a car, watching TV, functioning in the kitchen or crossing a street are all examples of daily activities that become difficult when a person has low vision.
What causes Low Vision?
Low vision can be the result of a birth or developmental defect, of an eye or body disease, or simply of ageing. Common causes of low vision include albinism, nystagmus, macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and retinal detachment among others.
Who gets Low Vision?
Low vision can affect anybody, both young and old. Nonetheless, it is more common in the senior population.
What can be done about Low Vision?
Patients who have low vision are often told that “nothing more can be done” for them. We would argue that all patients with low vision, however, should have regular low vision examinations. Low vision examinations do not restore a person’s sight, but help to maximize the vision that the person has been left with. We call this low vision rehabilitation.
What entails a Low Vision Examination?
Low vision examinations are special eye exams given by an optometrist or ophthalmologist who has a special interest in low vision. A low vision examination is usually three times the length of a standard eye examination.
The low vision examination begins with a careful history about when the patient’s vision changes began and how they are affecting the patient’s ability to function. Usually, patients have very specific areas in which they are having difficulties, and we call these “goals.” An example of a goal would be to read one’s mail, or to walk around safely without bumping into things.
The optometrist or ophthalmologist then performs many tests, including testing the patient’s vision on special vision charts, and measuring things like contrast sensitivity and colour vision among others.
Finally, the optometrist or ophthalmologist prescribes special devices (such as magnifiers, telescopes and reading machines) to enhance the person’s vision or provides strategies such as better lighting to make the person’s life easier. The optometrist or ophthalmologist might also refer the patient on for useful services such as counselling or other training.
At our office, Dr. Kimberlee Robertson-Woods and Dr. Khan often spend at least an hour and a half addressing the needs of their patients during a low vision examination. Once a low vision device has been prescribed, the doctors will often have their patients return for a training session with their new device(s).
Does OHIP cover low vision examinations?
OHIP does not provide funding for low vision examinations performed by an optometrist, regardless of patient age, anywhere in Ontario. The patient may, however, qualify for an Ontario government program called the Assistive Devices Program (ADP), which covers a portion of the cost of many low vision devices. In order to determine whether a patient qualifies for funding for low vision devices through ADP, that patient must have a low vision evaluation first. For more information, please contact our clinic.
I am registered with the CNIB. Do I still need a Low Vision Examination?
Yes. Both your optometrist and the CNIB provide excellent tools and resources for patients with low vision. These services often complement each other instead of repeating each other. Dr. Khan pursued a residency in low vision rehabilitation, a year of extra training pursued by less than 20% of optometrists, upon her graduation from optometry school. She may be able to prescribe special vision-enhancing devices or make recommendations that you have not seen or heard of yet.
How do I make an appointment for my Low Vision Examination? Do I need a referral?
A referral from your current optometrist or ophthalmologist is always helpful in understanding your vision for your low vision rehabilitation program. A referral is not however necessary. To schedule your low vision examination, please contact us at 905 682 9119 or 905 468 8003.
How to prepare for your Low Vision Examination.
Please bring an updated list of medications and note any doctors you may be seeing (family doctor, optometrists or eye specialists). It helps if you are familiar with your eye diagnosis, any treatments you may have received, and any follow-up appointments you may have.
Take some time to think about the things with which you are having the most difficulty. Is it reading your mail? Signing cheques? Enjoying a book? Dealing with glare when you are outside? Make note of which of these activities are most important to you. These things will become the “goals” that Dr. Robertson-Woods and Dr. Khan will strive to have you achieve.
Please schedule up to an hour and a half for your low vision examination. We recommend bringing a family member or friend for support or as an extra set of ears!
Is your clinic wheelchair accessible?
Our Niagara on the Lake office is wheelchair accessible. There is a flight of 4 steps at our St Catharines location. Should you be unable to attend either office, you can reach our clinic to make special arrangements.
- New patient questionnaire for patients with low vision
- Ontario Assistive Devices Program
- Eschenbach (an example of some of the products we carry)