3 Important Low Vision Questions We Rarely Ask

By David L. Armstrong, OD, with Richard J. Shuldiner, OD, FAAO

Everyone wants to live a full, independent life with no limits. People with low vision experience the frustration and limitations of impaired vision. They expect their eye doctor to do everything possible to help them see the best they can. Unfortunately, they often leave the doctor’s office with no hope of seeing better. They know their doctor monitors their eye condition, doing everything possible to preserve vision and keep it from worsening. Still, they may get the impression that the doctor does not understand how the vision loss impacts their life and makes living so much more difficult.

The key to helping a visually impaired person is understanding their daily struggles to function normally. I recommend asking them three questions. You may want to add them to your intake form. The patient’s answers will provide an appreciation of their challenges and what they would like help with. With that knowledge, you can make a plan to help them.

Question #1: How does your vision problem affect your daily activities?

Question #2: Has your vision problem caused you to give up any essential activities?

The answers to these two questions will help you understand how strenuous ordinary daily activities have become for the patient. They may struggle to read or have given up reading things important to them, like their Bible. They may tell you they feel unsafe driving or have decided to stop altogether. If they’ve quit driving, they will tell you how depressing it is to be unable to run simple errands independently. They may hesitate to ask for help from family or friends who’ve volunteered to drive for them. Some are embarrassed that they can’t recognize a friend who waves to them.

If you provide low-vision services in your practice, this information will help you know what types of low-vision glasses or other devices will be helpful. If you do not offer this service, I recommend that you ask the following question:

Question #3: Would you like me to refer you to a doctor who can help you see better?

The patient will appreciate you caring enough to make the referral, and you will have provided them with much-needed help. If you are unaware of a low-vision doctor, you or the patient should Google “low-vision doctors”.

By adding these questions to your case history and patient intake form, you will be surprised how much more your patients will appreciate your caring. In addition, you will comply with the standard of care by referring to vision loss patients for low vision rehabilitation. The video below demonstrates the difference low vision care can make.