Saying that poor eyesight can adversely impact your quality of life seems like a bit of a no-brainer, but low vision comes with a laundry list of complications. Some of these will likely come as little surprise, but there are others you’re unlikely to hear about unless you’re actively dealing with them.
Driving is often one of the first skills that people with newly impaired vision stand to lose. Driving at any speed requires close concentration and a high measure of visual acuity. The consequences for getting on the road with anything less are both obvious and severe, and disorders such as cataracts or macular degeneration can quickly make driving dangerous.
Even if a vision-impaired driver feels confident in their own abilities, government agencies might not agree. Most states require visual acuity (with the help of corrective lenses) of at least 20/40 in one eye, as well as a moderately large field of vision. Testing protocols vary from state to state, but most require intermittent vision checks for older drivers.
If you do find yourself unlicensed, or simply decide that your vision isn’t good enough to allow driving, then getting around quickly becomes a serious challenge. Many people rely on their cars for access to groceries, jobs, or other important trips, and losing the ability to drive can quickly trap an individual with low vision at home. If this does happen, home-bound adults are much more likely than their peers to suffer from depression and other psychological disorders.
Fortunately, there are some ways to stay mobile with impaired vision. While they’re not permitted in every state, bioptic lens systems may allow some people to safely keep driving even with low vision. These telescopic lenses help drivers see distant signs and objects more clearly – again, not every state allows them, and not every person can benefit from them, but they’re an excellent option for some.
Public transit often plays second fiddle to driving, but taking a bus or subway can still be a daunting prospect with low vision. If so, local paratransit systems may be a good option. Also do your best to learn about any community-organized systems. For example, Lions’ Clubs will occasionally fund local transit for disabled persons.
Vision loss, especially during periods of serious decline, can take a toll on mental health. Depression is extremely common among adults with low vision – roughly one third of all adults with low vision will experience it at some point. Not only does depression seriously affect quality of life, it also makes sufferers less likely to seek help when they need it most.
The disrupted sleep cycles, loss of pleasure, drop in mental acuity, and other symptoms of depression all work to isolate an individual. A depressed person’s social ties generally suffer, and overall rates of unemployment and divorce accordingly rise.
If you or a loved one seems to be suffering from vision-related depression, then look for help straightaway. Counseling and medication are both potentially very helpful in treating depression. Additionally, making lifestyle changes – though that’s easier said than done – can also help. Exercise, social interaction, and consistent sleep cycles have all been shown to mitigate the symptoms of depression, though it’s also worth noting that instituting any of those changes can be a massive challenge for a depressed individual.
The ability to rely on family and friends is also of enormous importance, doubly so for folks with impaired vision, as the drop in mobility can make it extremely difficult to meet up with people. The internet does offer one opportunity to overcome that barrier. Access to a computer lets low-vision sufferers key into an online community of people in similar situations.
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Injury Due to Vision Loss
Decreased vision also raises the odds of more tangible injury. Falls are common accidents for any elderly person and having a vision disorder makes them nearly twice as likely. While a fall can cause nothing more than a couple of bruises and some jangled nerves, they do pose some more serious risks.
Hip fractures are extremely common, with over 250,000 admitted cases per year among adults over 65, 95 percent of which are caused by falls. One out of every five fall sufferers will die within a year of their accident, a scary number, but one that does a good job of illustrating how serious the problem is.
Low vision increases the odds of a fall by impairing a person’s balance and ability to perceive possible obstacles in their path. While outside the house, vision-impaired people should take extra care to stay upright and safe. Walkers, canes, and other mobility assistance devices can help. Having a human or canine guide can also cut the chances of a dangerous fall.
Inside the house, it’s important to safety-proof. Install handholds where necessary, clear walkways, and use a variety of textured materials to help provide non-visual cues – for example, place velcro patches on on-off switches to help distinguish them.
Taking a proactive approach to eye health is your best way to keep your eyes, and of course the rest of your body, in top condition. Visiting doctors can help catch potentially dangerous conditions early, allowing you to head them off before they do serious damage. Apart from scheduling regular eye exams though, there’s plenty that you can do to protect your vision.
Watching your diet is extremely important. Certain foods have known beneficial effects on your eyes. If you’re concerned you’re not getting enough of the right nutrients, then taking supplements, like RYV’s Ocu-Plus Formula, can help patch diet deficiencies.
So stay proactive, there’s plenty of good that you can do for your eyes.