As a retina specialist, I see a lot of people that have substantial vision loss from diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and other diseases. Diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration are the core of a retinal specialist’s practice; the top two leading causes of new blindness in adults.
What about glasses?
When people lose vision due to retinal disease , glasses can help only to a point. While other conditions can cause decreased vision not improved with glasses, I am speaking of patients with retinal disease and no other issues, such as cataract. When we measure the vision in any patient, we speak of the “best corrected” vision, that is, the vision using the correct prescription. The glasses/contacts/laser vision correction can only focus the images on the surface of the retina. If the retina does not function properly, vision may not be improved with glasses. To state another way, patients that see 20/20 usually have normal, healthy, retinas.
What about Low Vision Aids?
Unfortunately, too many people are legally blind from these two diseases. Low vision aids can sometimes be of use, but I usually warn patients that many of the aids require “relearning” simple routine tasks. Also, low vision aids usually are not simply “more powerful” glasses – something you strap on and “see” better. Lastly, to function with a new aid (such as a magnifier) takes motivation. If a patient isn’t interested, it may be a very difficult transition. In all cases, I do recommend an evaluation, if only for educational purposes.
Randall V. Wong, M.D.
Ophthalmologist, Retinal Specialist