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Low Vision

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Vision Loss

Low Vision – who does it affect?

Vision is our most precious sense. The loss of vision is one of the most feared health problems. Vision loss may be acquired or result from congenital or hereditary eye problems. Loss of vision is different for every condition. Low vision is experienced differently and variably by each person.

Hereditary and congenital eye disorders account for the vision impairment in at least 40% of people who are registered as blind. These disorders include: retinal dystrophies, congenital cataracts, anterior segment abnormalities of the eyes (problems with front of the eye) and microphthalmia/anophthalmia (small or absent eyes).

The eye is like a camera, with the cornea and lens acting as the focusing elements and the retina being the film.

In the retina, the area for detailed vision is called the macular macula and is at the centre. If the macular macula is affected, such as in age related macular degeneration, then detailed central vision is lost. The retinal dystrophies tend to affect the whole retina. Symptoms may include night blindness such as in retinitis pigmentosa (1:3000 affected), or difficulty with bright lights and detailed vision (cone dystrophy). Retinal dystrophies are a significant cause of blindness worldwide and lead to progressive visual loss. Approximately one in 5000 people are affected.

Low vision may also develop through the loss of peripheral vision. The most common cause is glaucoma. Approximately 3% of Australians have glaucoma but only half these people are aware that they suffer from this condition. Of the acquired causes of visual loss, macular degeneration affects up to one in four people over the age of 70 years. Diabetes is the most common cause of blindness in people of working age and can affect the macular macula resulting in loss of central vision. Hereditary and congenital eye disorders, although smaller in absolute number, provide a significant burden over a lifetime. These conditions have their greatest impact on the working age of the affected.


Article By Associate Professor John Grigg, Save Sight Institute (The University of Sydney)


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