Eye with cataract.Low vision is a visual impairment where you find yourself still struggling to read, watch television, recognize people, shop, and so on, after you’ve gotten corrective lenses (i.e., eyeglasses or contacts), taken medication, and/or have had surgery for cataracts, etc. It’s a condition that affects 3 million Americans ages 40 and older, but primarily affects those ages 65 and over. It can be hard to live with when you’ve done “all the things” to correct your vision and yet, you still can’t see as well as you once did.

According to the National Eye Institute, low vision is usually caused by eye diseases or other health conditions. Some of these include age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetes, and glaucoma; diseases for which older adults are at higher risk. Eye injuries and birth defects are other causes. Whatever the cause, lost vision often cannot be restored. It can, however, be managed with proper treatment and vision rehabilitation.

Of the eye diseases most likely to cause low vision is age-related macular degeneration. This condition — like the name suggests — is brought on by aging. It essentially causes a blank spot to appear in the center of your field of vision. The American Macular Degeneration Foundation describes the condition as such:

“Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail.”

It can be difficult to live with age-related macular degeneration and low vision, but rehabilitation services allow people with these conditions to utilize adaptive devices like magnifiers and to find methods to modify their everyday routines that help them to navigate their world better.

While these conditions can’t be cured, getting a comprehensive eye exam every year and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, will help to prolong your vision and prepare you for the future.