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HealthInfo Canterbury

Low vision

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What is low vision?

Low vision means you can see less than people with normal vision, even when you use the best possible corrective lenses (glasses or contact lenses), medicine or surgery. Low vision is a loss of eyesight that makes it hard to do your everyday tasks.

If you have low vision you may find it difficult or impossible to do things like reading, writing, shopping, watching television, driving a car or recognising faces. You might not be able to set dials on things like your stove top, or manage glare.

You may need help to learn how to make the most of your remaining sight and keep your independence. Losing vision does not mean you have to give up things you do, but you will need to find new ways of doing them. Many people with low vision need to change the lighting in their home, and have bigger print on things they want to read.

What does legally blind mean?

If someone is legally blind, it means that even in their best eye they can only see things at 6 metres that other people can see at 60 metres away. This is called 6/60 vision. Normal vision is 6/6 (or 20/20 in the old, imperial, scale).

A person is also legally blind if their field of vision – or how wide they can see things when looking straight ahead – is 20º or less. In healthy eyes, the field of vision is 180º.

People who are legally blind may have some useful vision.

Written by Canterbury optometrists. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. November 2014.

In this section

Causes & symptoms of low vision

How is low vision treated?

Coping with vision loss

Strategies for living with low vision

More information about low vision

Page reference: 121114

Review key: HILOV-121114