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The Low Vision Exam

Anatomy of a Low Vision Exam

As with any doctor's visit, we have to ask and learn about each patient's medical history.  But then patients at Astorino Vision Rehabilitation are asked questions that many state have never been asked of them at a doctor's office before.  These questions involve determining which visual activities are troublesome to each patient.  We would like to know if the patient has difficulties in reading, writing, computer use, television viewing, seeing faces, seeing signs, lighting, glare sensitivity, cooking, cleaning, seeing their watch, to name just a few.

Once the activities of difficulty are determined, the eye examination begins with the goal of improving each troublesome task.  A Low Vision doctor uses an eye chart specifically designed for people who have a vision problem and performs a Low Vision refraction.  We already know they can't see the regular eye chart all that well.  What we need to know is exactly what they CAN see.  This specialized test lets the doctor measure and calculate the patient's prescription.  Yes, even with Low Vision there is still a prescription strength to be found.  Without knowing what the prescription strength is, there is no way to know what power of magnification is needed to help each patient see their best.

Once the prescription is determined, the doctor can begin evaluating different lenses and other Low Vision devices that meet the patient's needs.  The refraction eliminates the frustrating trial and error method used by catalogs and stores that have no idea how much magnification each person's eyes require.  When a Low Vision doctor knows your prescriptive strength they can show you what your vision would be like with the correct Low Vision devices.  

Everyone's eyes have a different magnification need.  Every patient has their own vision goals.  The Low Vision exam should be the place where these goals are discussed and the aids needed to assist in these goals are evaluated.  Having someone work with the patient who can guide them as well as educate them on what is best for their needs is key to successful Low Vision rehabilitation.

At the end of the Low Vision exam, the doctor will have a list of prescription strengths and devices that worked best for the patient.  A Low Vision rehabilitation plan will be created for the Low Vision occupational therapist to follow on the next visit.  

No glasses or devices are prescribed on the first visit.   It is imperative for the patient to work with the aids for an extended period of time with a  Low Vision occupational therapist.  This helps determine which devices will be successful.  

Studies have found that a patient with no Low Vision rehabilitation has only a 25% chance at finding something useful for their vision goals.  A patient who completes a Low Vision rehabilitation program has a 75% chance of successfully meeting their Low Vision goals and actually using their devices.