The lowdown on vision rehabilitation

February 14, 2019
Doctors of optometry are key to the proper examination and diagnosis of vision impairments, leading to prescribed treatment prior to outcomes. AOA will participate in a Facebook Live Event on Feb. 22 with National Eye Institute.
The lowdown on vision rehabilitation

For close to 50 years, the practice of Dale Lervick, O.D., has delivered primary eye care to his Colorado community of Lakewood. Early on, however, Dr. Lervick realized he needed to increase his focus on vision rehabilitation to meet the needs of his visually impaired patients.

These days, Dr. Lervick speaks with considerable experience and expertise on the subject. He was among the panelists when the AOA participated in the National Eye Institute (NEI) Facebook Live Event, "Set Your Sights on Vision Rehab." Low Vision Awareness Month is observed in February (#lowvisionawarenessmonth). Dr. Lervick, a member of the AOA Vision Rehabilitation Committee, explains in a Q&A the importance of raising public awareness regarding low vision.

"That interest developed through mentoring with low vision providers and the fact that both of my parents acquired significant vision loss as they aged, due to glaucoma and macular degeneration," Dr. Lervick says.

"As the country's aging demographic and incidence of eye disease and associated disorders increases, there will be a greater need to address the issues associated with vision loss," he adds. "This will certainly be evident with the baby boomers as well. As providers, we must also consider the role of prevention in our delivery of care."

Doctors of optometry are key to the proper examination and diagnosis of vision impairments, leading to prescribed treatment prior to outcomes.

What will be your message to the public and eye doctors?

The AOA would like those in the listening audience—patients, eye doctors and other medical professionals—to know that there is help for those who have both acquired and congenital vision loss. Doctors of optometry can provide them with a means to find help. From a rehabilitative approach, a great majority of these patients can be helped regardless of the cause of the vision loss.

What is low vision?

Vision impairment, often referred to as low vision, has been generally accepted to mean that patients have reduced visual acuity or visual field deficit that is not correctable by conventional spectacles, contact lenses or surgery. The visual acuity or field loss can affect or limit functional vision or daily activities. 

What is vision rehabilitation?

Vision rehabilitation includes an understanding of the etiology, anatomy, neurology, disease course and its effects upon activities of daily living. Vision loss affects activities such as reading, writing, mobility, cooking, daily hygiene as in self-care and independence to name just a few ways low vision can have an impact. It can affect one's emotional state, levels of depression, social interaction, employment and self-reliance This can only be determined through a comprehensive, low vision evaluation and treatment plan. Because multiple comorbidities affect outcomes of low vision care, other clinical measures from a patient history may need to be considered and co-managed with other care providers.

How can vision rehabilitation help with low vision?

Vision rehabilitation will help those who have vision loss because it enhances levels of visual function through a therapeutic process that optimizes the individual's residual or remaining vision. It utilizes techniques, training and prescribing of devices or tools that reduce or prevent visual disability, as well as improve function and support the activities of daily living. The rehabilitative plan is directed toward a broad spectrum of patients regardless of age or etiology.

Join the AOA Vision Rehabilitation Advocacy Network to access AOA resources and to advocate for better policies, regulations and laws.

Find an AOA doctor whose practice puts an emphasis on vision rehabilitation.

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