Optometrist Dr. John Metzger calls attention to Low Vision Awareness Month

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Dr. Metzger with a patient // Alphapointe

Low vision can make everyday things, such as cooking and writing, difficult. The American Academy of Ophthalmology defines low vision as vision loss that cannot be corrected with eyeglasses or surgery.

Vision loss affects millions of Americans of all ages. Low Vision Awareness Month raises awareness about vision loss and vision rehabilitation services every February. Vision rehabilitation can help people with low vision stay independent.

Dr. John Metzger manages the Kansas City Vision Performance Center and has had more than 40 years of experience in optometry. Metzger specifically works in developmental optometry, vision therapy, low vision rehabilitation, and neuro-optometry.

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Dr. Metzger with a patient // Alphapointe

Metzger also serves the community through Alphapointe’s Low Vision Clinic. Alphapointe’s low vision rehabilitation services are designed to assist patients in adjusting to life with vision loss while maintaining or regaining independence.

Metzger says low vision is visual acuity less than 20/70 and better than 20/200 with glasses on. Vision 20/200 or worse is “legal” blindness in the U.S.

After years of being extremely confused as to what terms like 20/70 mean, Metzger has broken it down for us. He says the first figure (20) is a person standing 20 feet from the eye chart and reading the smallest letters the person is able to see. The second figure (70)  means a normally sighted person can back up to 70 feet away from the chart and read the same letters.

“Low vision may technically start at less than 20/70 vision, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t struggling when you have better eyesight,” says Metzger.

A trace of a cataract, the clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye, is something small that can greatly impact the vision of someone with perfect 20/2o vision. Something like cataracts can cause difficulty doing things like crossword puzzles where little letters go in little boxes.

Glasses will not correct cataracts in the long term. Mayo Clinic says cataracts develop slowly and will not disturb sight early on. However, they will interfere with vision over time. At first, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help with cataracts. Surgery may be needed to correct it after consulting with a doctor.

Cataracts are one example of low vision. Luckily cataracts can be fixed with surgery most of the time. Sometimes low vision problems cannot be reversed with surgery or glasses. If this is the case, Metzger says an optometrist, an occupational therapist, mobility specialist, technology expert, job rehab specialists, or youth support may be needed. Alphapointe provides each of these services.

Alphapointe evaluates a patient’s functional vision and may prescribe optical devices to maximize the patient’s vision such as bioptics, telescopes, prism readers, varying magnification options, and more after corrective surgery and lenses are no longer effective.

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