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Low Vision Services

Low vision is a loss of vision that cannot be corrected with regular glasses, contact lenses or surgery. Learn about the Low Vision Services at Vision Source of Spencer in Spencer.

What is low vision?

Low vision is a loss of vision that cannot be corrected with regular glasses, contact lenses or surgery. There can be different causes of low vision some of the most common include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract, diabetes, glaucoma or stroke.

Often, this type of vision loss can affect a person’s ability to participate in everyday activities like reading, cooking, walking and driving. While vision cannot be restored, low vision rehabilitation can help you to make the most of your remaining vision and allow you to continue to participate in daily activities and maintain independence.

Do I need to be legally blind to have a low vision exam?

You do not need to be legally blind to benefit from low vision services/devices.

Legal blindness is defined as the inability to see any letters on the 20/100 line on the eye chart in the better seeing eye. It is a designation that takes into account the vision in both eyes, you can not be legally blind in one eye. Additionally if patients have extremely reduced visual fields less than 20 degrees in the better seeing eye they may also qualify.

  • Mild visual impairment 20/40-20/60
  • Moderate visual impairment 20/70-20/160
  • Blindness 20/200- 20/400
  • Severe 20/400-20/1200
  • Profound 20/1200 – no light perception

Functional vision takes into account more than just the eye chart numbers. During a low vision exam we will assess contrast sensitivity, effect of blind spots or visual field loss on visual efficiency as well as the visual acuity on the letter chart.

What are the benefits of having a low vision exam?

Low vision exams help improve the quality of life of people suffering from vision impairment. During the exam various devices will be explored to help patients regain or maintain independence with varying levels of visual impairment. A low vision exam may also allow you to know about options you did not know existed. Some things may not be necessary with your level of vision loss but it can be important to know that the resources exist in the event of a progressive disease.

What can I expect at a low vision exam ?

  • First time appointment is a 1 hour appointment that can include:
    • Assessment of current functional vision
    • Assessment of current visual goals
    • Assessment of glasses prescription
    • Assessment of low vision devices which can include: Hand held magnifiers, telescopes, video magnifiers, text to speech options.
    • Assessment of large print products
    • Referrals to other low vision specialists and information about programs
    • You and Dr. Lauren Thamel will develop a personalized plan of action to achieve visual goals. Which may include additional visits as necessary
  • Follow up appointments can include further device assessment, device training or discussion of new goals

How long is the appointment?

Initial low vision exams are scheduled for 1 hour. Sometimes it may take multiple visits to address all of a patient’s goals. Follow up visits range from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Visits can be streamlined by completing pre-visit questionnaires. Exams can be long and if patients need to break the exam up over multiple visits that can be done as well.

Will I be able to get glasses from this exam?

Yes. Part of the low vision exam is determining a glasses prescription. Additionally we have a full optical that can help you pick out glasses.  New glasses may be a part of the solution by optimizing remaining vision but visual expectations will also be discussed during the exam.

What should I bring to my exam: Check list?

  • Any Glasses, adaptive aids, magnifiers that you are currently using and what you like/dislike.
  • If you were unable to fill out a history form online, bring in a copy or mail to the office ahead of time.
  • Insurance cards. Copayment for exam.  Remember that devices will likely not be covered by insurance so check or credit cards if need to purchase.

What devices can I expect to be shown?

Our practice has many types of low vision devices that can help patients utilize remaining vision to the fullest.

  • High powered reading glasses
  • Hand held lighted magnifiers
  • Telescopes
  • Loupes
  • Electronic magnifiers commonly referred to as CCTV (closed circuit television)
  • Text to speech devices such as the ORcam
  • Electronic Head mounted magnification devices
  • Large print options and lighting recommendations
  • Discussion of Accessibility for cell phones and tablets
    • Desk Top CCTV – Easy to use larger screen size to allow for prolonged reading. Some have OCR (optical character recognition) or Text to speech capability as well
    • Portable CCTV – Medium size screen with ability to connect to large screens
    • Hand Held CCTV – Spot Reading tasks – newspaper/pill bottles/food labels/restaurant menus
    • Head Mounted CCTV – TV watching/kids or professional sporting events/plays/movies
    • OCR Devices – ORcam – portable text to speech solution
    • Magnifying Glass – Spot Reading tasks – newspaper/pill bottles/food labels/restaurant menus
    • Telescopes – Distance viewing – TV watching/bird watching/grocery store/street signs

Why do I have to hold things closer with higher power reading glasses?

When we increase the power in a lens whether it be in glasses or magnifiers the higher the power the closer target material must be held due to physical optics. Increasing power in optical magnifiers will also cause the size of the lens to need to be smaller. These are things we can not change with optics. Video magnification can help get around some of these limitations.

What costs can I expect?

We currently accept most major medical plans.  Learn more about our accepted insurance plans here.

The exam will be billed to your insurance and your specialty copay will be collected at time of your appointment or if you know ahead of time you can pay at time of booking the appointment.

If you only have medicare there is also a fee for refraction (glasses prescription) because medicare never covers that service.

If you have a vision plan this can be billed for the refraction fee. Additionally, if you have a vision plan this can be used towards purchasing glasses.

Low vision devices are not covered by medicare/HMO and are not covered by most vision plans and will therefore be a cost to the patient for low vision devices.

FSA/HSA money can be used towards these since they are medical devices as well as we accept Care Credit to allow patients to spread out costs as needed.

If using Care Credit it is helpful to apply prior to your exam.  See more information about Care Credit here.

Can I bring someone with me to the exam?

Yes! In fact we encourage having one other person in the room to help keep track of information shared or to  provide other insight on areas you may be having trouble with.

Do  I need  a referral for low vision services?

Usually no referral is needed. Although some HMO plans may require primary care physicians for referral.  We do require a copy of your most recent eye exams from your eye care provider prior to your first exam or prior to your annual low vision eye exam so that we know if there have been any changes in your eye health.

Do I need to fill out the Low Vision Paper Work?

Yes. Please take the time to fill out the paperwork ahead of time if you are able to or if someone is able to help you fill out the paperwork. If you have a long medication list or medical history you can bring a copy with you or fax in advance to 508-753-6396.

Why do I need retinal imaging if I am dilated/monitored elsewhere?

On every first time patient we will image the back of the eye to better understand how your individual disease is impacting your vision. This will be billed through your medical insurance. On follow up visits imaging will be at the recommendation of the doctor or if there is any large change in vision since prior exams.

Do I still see my normal eye doctor?

Yes. You should continue to  see the eye doctor that is monitoring or treating you so that you have consistent treatment.

Will you send a report to my eye doctor? Or other doctors?

Yes. We can send a report to your eye doctor please provide us with their name and fax number and we will send it to them.

To see if you are suffering from low vision, book an appointment today.