Low Vision Awareness Month 2020: What Are The Preventable Causes Of Visual Impairment?

Those whose vision cannot be salvaged completely by either spectacle, medical or surgical treatment is labelled as suffering from low vision. 

Tavishi Dogra
Written by: Tavishi DograUpdated at: Feb 28, 2020 15:08 IST
Low Vision Awareness Month 2020: What Are The Preventable Causes Of Visual Impairment?

Eyes are our window to the world. There is rarely an activity on earth that humans do without involving their visual sense. In an ever-connected world, our visuals have grown more vivid and it is impossible to imagine a world without being able to see. Unfortunately, visual impairment affects about a third of the world’s population. More than half of they suffer from preventable causes of visual impairment.

3 Causes Explained By Dr Samyuk Mulkutkar

  • An individual who faces difficulties in performing his or her daily tasks needs to get in touch with an eye specialist. With the help of various test charts in different lighting conditions, the specialist will be able to assess the extent of correctable visual loss, the field of vision and depth perception. A majority of the population suffers from uncorrected refractive errors and prescribing spectacles is by far the simplest way to correct this type of vision loss.
  • The next common cause, cataract is treated by appropriate surgery to restore vision. Over the decades, various awareness programmes and their implementation by both governments & NGOs about effective cataract surgery has achieved various stages of success.
  • Other causes like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, corneal opacities feature lower down the list and there is an unmet need to create awareness about the early detection & timely treatment for these conditions.

The World Health Organisation defines low vision as “visual acuity less than 6/18 and equal to or better than 3/60 in the better eye with the best correction” (wherein 6/18 or 3/60 are scientific ways to quantify vision). This group of individuals are not completely blind and many of them may have the potential to perform select activities with the help of appropriate assistive devices or adapting themselves to performing a specific task. Various optical low vision assists devices such as telescopic glasses, hand magnifiers, magnifying glasses, reading prisms, lenses that filter light may provide help to various extents in improving the functional ability to read and write.

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Non-optical devices like text-reading software, large font sizes in print, high contrast or speaking clocks and watches may also help augment the quality of life in affected individuals.


  • According to Dr Samyuk Mulkutkar, those with low vision need to be motivated to utilise the above resources and learn strategies to live life further even with an existing visual impairment.
  • Specialised eye care professionals can prescribe the above devices depending on the need for central or peripheral low vision disability and on the basis on individual priorities.
  • Awareness regarding low vision and effective rehabilitation techniques to optimise the functions of daily life are a need of the day. With our increasing and ageing population, arises the need to tailor our health care systems to proportionately accommodate those with low vision.
  • Early detection and treatment of diseases like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy serve as a strategy to prevent persistent low vision.

[Inputs by Dr Samyuk Mulkutkar (Consultant Vitreo Retinal Surgeon & Uveitis Specialist, P. D. Hinduja Hospital & MRC)]

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