Services at Mass. Eye and Ear

Dr. Calliope Galatis works with patient who has low vision

Low-Vision Exam

Your first appointment at Mass. Eye and Ear will include a comprehensive low-vision exam with an optometrist who specializes in vision rehabilitation. This type of exam assesses your functional needs, capabilities, and limitations of your vision.

The doctor may test your visual acuity, depth perception, color vision, contrast sensitivity, peripheral vision, and refraction. A test may also be performed to identify potential blind spots in your central vision. The doctor will also ask how your vision affects your life in areas such as: reading, driving, home safety, mobility, and other daily activities.

The low-vision exam typically takes a little longer than a routine eye exam, and dilation is usually not required. When you make your appointment, please ask our staff about the expected length of your exam.

Personalized and Comprehensive Treatment

Your comprehensive treatment plan is designed to help you maximize your remaining sight, while improving your quality of life, independence, and safety. Your plan is tailored specifically to you, based on your individual goals and the results of your low-vision exam. Implementing the plan may take several training sessions over the course of several days or weeks. We can also arrange for a specialist to visit your home to help you modify your environment and practice using new skills and devices as part of your daily routine. Your plan may include:

Emotional Support and Services

Adjusting to life with low vision can be difficult for both you and your family. We will connect you with counselors and social workers who can help you develop coping strategies for emotional challenges. Mass. Eye and Ear also hosts support groups, where you can learn from and interact with your peers.

Low-Vision Aids

Your doctor may show you how to use various magnifiers, such as:

  • Magnifying spectacles can help with close-up tasks like reading or threading a needle.

  • Stand magnifiers rest above the object you are viewing and may have built-in lights.

  • Handheld magnifiers can help with varying amounts of vision. Some models have built-in lights.

  • Telescopes are used to see objects that are far away. Some telescopes can be attached to eyeglasses, while others are held like binoculars.

  • Video magnifiers are electronic devices that make printed pages, pictures, or other small objects look bigger. They are often adjustable for your specific needs. For instance, some magnifiers add contrast to make printed words darker.

Other low-vision devices can help with everyday tasks. Examples include:

  • Audio books and electronic books can make reading easier. With audio books, you can listen to text that is read aloud. With e-book readers, like Kindle®, you can increase word size and contrast.

  • Smartphones and tablets have accessibility features that allow you to increase the word size, adjust lighting, and use voice commands. Apps can also read material aloud, magnify, or illuminate.

  • Computers have accessibility features and can read aloud or magnify what is on the screen.

  • Talking devices are available in the form of watches, timers, blood pressure cuffs, and blood sugar machines, to name a few.

  • Large-print products, including books, newspapers, magazines, playing cards, bank checks, telephones, watches, and remote controls are available.

  • Lens filters are glasses that have a custom tint. Standard sunglasses may either be too dark or not dark enough if you have low vision.

  • Prism glasses can help expand your peripheral field of view (side vision).

Researchers at Mass. Eye and Ear are also pioneering innovative technologies for patients with low vision. To date, they have developed two free smartphone apps and glasses that expand the visual field. SuperVision+ is a magnifying and telescopic app that has an image stabilizer and contrast enhancement option. And Supervision+ Goggles is a similar app that can be used with smartphone virtual reality goggles.

Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor may recommend some changes you can make at home to help with everyday activities. An occupational therapist may even visit your home to help you implement and practice these adaptive techniques. Examples include:

  1. Use contrasting colors whenever possible. For example, use a dark tablecloth with white dishware or mark the edges of steps and ramps with paint or tape to make them easier to see.

  2. Eliminate common hazards. Remove electrical cords from pathways or tape them down. Use nonskid, non-glare cleaning products on floors, and use gripper pads under rugs.

  3. Enhance lighting. Add extra lamps, especially near stairs and in areas where you read. Place mirrors in areas that do not create glare. Install blinds or sheer curtains that can be adjusted to let in natural light.

  4. Reduce glare. When outdoors, wear a brimmed hat and wraparound sunglasses or filtered lenses.

  5. Make it bigger. Many products, including telephones, watches, remote controls, scales, and appliances are available with large display screens.

  6. Label everything. Bold labels or textured markings (like stickers or puff paint) can help you identify items, such as power buttons on appliances.

  7. Get organized. Categorize your items (like medications, spices, canned goods) from small to large or place them in alphabetical order. When items are in their proper places, they will be easy to locate quickly.

  8. Ask for help. Many people are trained to help people with low vision. Even strangers are often happy to help if you ask. There are also many support groups available.

  9. Practice. Once you have your methods in place, they will become easier with over time.

  10. Be patient. Adjusting to low vision takes time. Eventually, you’ll develop your own tricks and techniques to help with your specific visual impairment.