Questions About Vision

How does a low vision exam differ from a regular eye exam?
Can’t my regular ophthalmologist or optometrist do this?
When should I take my child for a first vision examination?
Is a cataract a growth over the eye?
What is Astigmatism?
What is Farsightedness (Hyperopia)?
What is Nearsightedness (Myopia)?
What is Presbyopia?

How does a low vision exam differ from a regular eye exam?
A regular eye exam concentrates on diagnosing eye disease. A low vision exam focuses on designing specialized glasses and low vision devices to enhance remaining vision. A low vision exam, sometimes called a functional vision assessment, evaluates vision functioning and the effect it has on daily living activities, such as reading the newspaper or cooking. After an interview to determine the person’s visual goals, a low vision specialist performs a detailed visual analysis. Distance vision is evaluated using telescopic aids. High-powered microscopic spectacle lenses, telemicroscopic aids and hand or stand magnifiers may be used to evaluate near vision skills, like reading. Special eye charts are used and lighting levels are evaluated. This analysis can take as long as one hour. In addition, instruction in the proper use of devices can take ½ hour and may be repeated before aids are prescribed. Many agencies provide a loaner program so individuals can borrow aids to try them out. After the vision exam, the individual may be referred to other professionals who work with visually impaired persons, such as mobility instructors.

Can’t my regular ophthalmologist or optometrist do this?
Presently, fewer than 5% of all eye doctors specialize in low vision. Though there are some ophthalmologists that specialize in low vision, most low vision specialists are optometrists. Effective low vision rehabilitation requires expertise and technology for the thorough evaluation of visual function as well as full access to available optical and electronic low vision devices.

When should I take my child for a first vision examination?
Your child’s eyes are checked at birth for congenital abnormalities like cataracts. The American Optometric Association recommends an evaluation for vision problems and eye diseases by six months of age or sooner if abnormalities or risk factors are present.

Re-examination is recommended by age three; sooner if you notice crossed-eyes or an apparent problem seeing clearly. Your optometrist will be able to check your child’s ability to see clearly far away and up close; to change focus from far to near and back; and to use the two eyes together as a team. It is not necessary for your child to know the alphabet for these testing procedures.

Is a cataract a growth over the eye?
No. Behind the pupil of your eye is a clear lens. When that lens becomes cloudy, it is called a cataract. Cataracts are usually caused by age. However, contracts are present at birth, inherited or caused by injury, disease or exposure to toxic materials or radiation.

A cataract usually starts small. Your optometrist can diagnose it during a thorough eye examination and monitor it. If it progresses, changes in your glasses may be necessary. Cataracts can blur your vision; cause double vision; or, oddly, suddenly improve your vision for reading.

What is Astigmatism?
Astigmatism can be described as oval shape to the cornea. It occurs when the cornea is shaped more like a football than a basketball. As a result, an experience distortion or tilting of images due to the unequal bending of the light rays entering your eyes. People with high degrees of astigmatism have blurred vision for both near and distant objects.

What is Farsightedness (Hyperopia)?
Farsighted individuals usually have adequate distance vision with more difficulty focusing to read. Many young children are farsighted.

What is Nearsightedness (Myopia)?
Nearsighted individuals have difficulty seeing in the distance without their glasses, but their near vision may be fine. Many children tend to become more nearsighted as they grow.

What is Presbyopia?
As individuals approach there forties, focusing for near tasks becomes more difficult. As the focusing muscle in the eye loose elasticity, bifocals or reading glasses become necessary. These focusing changes due to presbyopia continue through our fifties.

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