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What’s wrong with my eyes, doc?

My mum suffers from low vision and has difficulties going about daily tasks, such as reading newspapers and seeing bus numbers. What can I do to improve her quality of life?

Low vision can present in many ways and affect everyone differently. The problems that your mother is experiencing are common symptoms of low vision. Here are some ideas on what you and your mum can do to improve these symptoms.

Blurred vision
The simplest way to get around this is to bring the object of interest closer to view. Your mum could also explore visual aids, such as magnifiers and accessibility features on smart devices (e.g., zoom, large fonts). If she has problems seeing the service number of an approaching bus, she can complement the smartphone accessibility features with the mobile app that gives bus arrival times.

Reduced ability to distinguish an object against its background
Ensuring the appropriate lighting conditions for the location and activity can improve her ability to distinguish between an object and its background. Another useful tip is for your mum to use high-contrast colours (e.g., white font on black background) or tactile stickers to label commonly used items at home. If she uses digital gadgets, she can try out screen enhancement accessibility features on her devices (e.g., bold text, reverse contrast, increased contrast). Wearing sunglasses or glasses with filters could help with indoor or outdoor glare respectively.

Reduced ability to adjust to different lighting conditions
Your mum should get appropriate colour tones for the lenses of her sunglasses. Wrap-around sunglasses or clip-on filters may be useful to help her better adjust to changing lighting conditions in the environment when required.

Loss of central vision (a darker patch in the centre of your vision)
Similar to blurred vision, your mum can bring the object of interest closer to view, or use visual aids and accessibility features on smart devices.

Loss of visual field on the sides (leaving only a small area of central vision)
If your mum experiences this, it may be helpful for her to go for orientation and mobility (O&M) training to equip her with skills to travel independently and safely. It would also be useful for you and other caregivers to attend
caregiver training (e.g., sighted guide technique) to learn how to guide your mum through her daily activities in a safe and effective way. As for equipment, she can opt to use a reverse telescope or wear peripheral prism glasses to help in earlier detection of potential obstacles in areas of her visual field loss. Remind her to always use pedestrian crossings (e.g., traffic lights, zebra crossings) when crossing roads as she may require more time to spot oncoming vehicles. When crossing roads, she should turn her head instead of only looking straight to check for oncoming vehicles.

SNEC loans low vision aids to its patients. See which works best for your mum before she purchases it (see page 20 for more information). The SNEC Low Vision Clinic can also refer patients for O&M training, which can equip them with skills and strategies to navigate more safely and confidently. Patients with low vision are encouraged to undergo vision assessment and rehabilitation at SNEC’s Low Vision Clinic.

Scan to find out more about Low Vision:

Clin Assoc Prof Anna Tan
Clinical Director for Low Vision Service;
Senior Consultant, Medical Retina Department, SNEC

Click here to check out other articles in SINGVISION Issue 2/2021.