Low vision can cause many problems in your everyday life. But it’s possible to get help.

Do you or someone you love have trouble seeing your phone, tablet, or television? What about reading medicine labels or the mail, recognizing faces, or seeing in your environment?

Is it difficult to write checks, make lists, or use electronic devices such as cell phones or tablets? Do you avoid leaving home or have trouble navigating in unfamiliar areas because of your vision?

If so, you may need more than just a prescription for stronger glasses or contact lenses. You may need specialized occupational therapy because you’re experiencing low vision.

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What Is Low Vision?

Low vision and vision impairment describe any vision loss that glasses, contact lenses, or surgery cannot correct. Certain eye diseases can affect your vision, including:

  • Macular degeneration.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Diabetic retinopathy.
  • Genetic retinal disease.
  • Parkinson’s disease.
  • Stroke or visual field impairment.
  • Neuro-related vision impairment, including anoxia.
  • Brain injury.

“It’s easy to let vision impairment stop you from enjoying life,” says Holly Stants, MS, low vision occupational therapy team leader at UPMC.

“But it’s important to know that help is out there. Occupational therapy for low vision rehabilitation can help you gain more independence so you can return to daily activities and a better quality of life.”

Low Vision and Vision Impairment Occupational Therapy

Specialized occupational therapy is available for those experiencing low vision or vision impairment. This type of rehabilitation can help you use your remaining vision for:

  • Reading and writing.
  • Medicine management.
  • Fall prevention strategies.
  • Community mobility.
  • Home management.
  • Electronic device management, including computers and tablets.
  • Technology, including cell phone use.
  • Navigating low lighting, glare, and contrast.
  • Leisure activities.
  • Work-related tasks.

Your low vision optometrist, ophthalmologist, primary care doctor, physiatrist or another specialty physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner may refer you to an occupational therapist for low vision rehabilitation.

“When you begin therapy, we’ll work with you to reach your personal goals,” Holly says. “We can train you on new strategies and compensatory skills, as well as recommend equipment to help you complete more tasks on your own.”

These devices and skills include:

  • Training to use your remaining vision.
  • Electronic devices for magnification.
  • Computer programs or applications for electronic devices.
  • Specialized magnifiers.
  • Strategies to improve your ability to complete everyday tasks.
  • Fall prevention strategies.
  • Community mobility.
  • Strategies for coping with chronic vision impairment.
  • Health management of chronic disease.
  • Family education.
  • Community resource education.

“We will help you improve your quality of life, gain independence, and complete meaningful activities,” Holly says. “We work on the science of living.”

Learn more about our low-vision research collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh.

To schedule an appointment or learn more, call 1-888-723-4277 or visit our website.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About UPMC Rehabilitation Institute

The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.