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NEI resources can help ODs educate growing number of Americans with vision loss

March 20, 2013

Optometrists can educate patients with the National Eye Institute’s (NEI) newly introduced 20-page large-print booklet and series of videos to help people adapt to life with low vision. The materials were released during Low Vision Awareness Month, February 2013.

The booklet, “Living with Low Vision: What you should know,” urges people with low vision to seek help from a low vision specialist and provides tips to maximize remaining eyesight, enabling them to safely enjoy a productive and rewarding life.

The videos feature patient stories about living with low vision. Another video, targeted to health care professionals, emphasizes the importance of informing patients with vision loss about vision rehabilitation services.

The booklet and the videos were developed by the NEI National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP).

A 2012 report cosponsored by the National Institutes of Health estimates that 2.9 million Americans are living with low vision. The number is projected to increase 72 percent by 2030 when the last of the baby boomers turn 65. Most people with low vision are 65 years old or older.

“I encourage anyone with low vision to seek guidance about vision rehabilitation from a low vision specialist,” said NEI Director Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D. “For many people, vision rehabilitation can improve daily living and overall quality of life.”

As described in the booklet and videos, vision rehabilitation services include:

  • training to use magnifying and adaptive devices
  • learning new daily living skills to remain safe and live independently
  • developing strategies to navigate inside and outside the home
  • providing resources and support to help patients with vision loss

“A vision rehabilitation plan helps people reach their true visual potential when nothing more can be done from a medical or surgical standpoint,” said Mark Wilkinson, O.D., a low vision specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and a NEHEP planning committee member. “Vision rehabilitation can make a world of difference to a person adjusting to vision loss and should be considered part of the continuum of care. I urge health professionals to help their patients with low vision seek vision rehabilitation services.”

The new NEI booklet and videos along with other resources for people with low vision can be viewed and downloaded at www.nei.nih.gov/lowvision.

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