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What’s the Difference Between Low Vision and Being Legally Blind?

Whats the Difference Between Low Vision and Being Legally Blind 640×350Low vision doesn’t mean blindness. It simply means that a portion of your vision is impaired and that assistive devices can help you continue to enjoy life.

What is Low Vision?

Hearing the terms ‘visual impairment,’ ‘low vision,’ or ‘blindness’ from your eye doctor can be confusing. The more you understand these terms, the more you'll be able to advocate for yourself or a loved one with vision loss.

Visual impairment is a broad term that refers to any loss of vision. The following are some of the terms used to characterize different types of vision impairment:

Low vision is defined as a visual acuity of 20/70 or less in the better-seeing eye that cannot be corrected with glasses or contacts.

Legally blind is corrected vision of 20/200 in the better-seeing eye, even with glasses, contacts, or surgery. If visual aids such as eyeglasses can correct a person's eyesight to 20/200 or better, they are not considered legally blind.

Total blindness is defined as the entire loss of functional vision as a result of a genetic condition, disease, or injury.

Partial vision refers to the capacity to see only a portion of your visual field, or to have good central vision but poor peripheral vision. A brain tumor, brain injury, or an eye condition are the most common causes.

Does Low Vision Mean Blindness?

No. Vision loss that cannot be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or surgery is known as low vision. However, because some vision remains, it is not considered blindness. A person with low vision may have blurred vision, blind spots or have poor night vision.

Common types of low vision

Loss of central vision

A person's side (peripheral) vision is mostly unaffected by the loss of central vision.

A blur or blind spot in the center of what you're looking at occurs from a loss of central vision. This makes it difficult to read, recognize people and identify features at a distance.

However, as long as the person has adequate side vision, mobility is still possible.

Loss of peripheral (side) vision

With the loss of peripheral vision, a person's remaining central vision often allows them to look straight ahead, read, watch TV and recognize faces.

Peripheral vision loss makes it difficult to differentiate objects on one or both sides, as well as items directly above and below eye level. Mobility is often hindered by a loss of peripheral vision.

This is referred to as tunnel vision, and can be caused by glaucoma, a brain tumor or injury.

Blurred vision

Blurred vision causes both near and far vision to be out of focus, even with the maximum possible correction using eyeglasses. Common causes of blurred vision are macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic edema.

Reduced contrast sensitivity

People who lose their contrast sensitivity suffer from poor vision. They have the feeling that there is an overall haze that appears filmy or cloudy.

Glare/light sensitivity

When a person's visual system is overwhelmed by normal amounts of light. Even when exposed to typical quantities of light, extreme light sensitivity can produce pain or discomfort.

Night blindness

People with night blindness find it difficult to see outside at night or in dimly lit indoor settings.

Low Vision Devices

People with low vision can often live and work independently thanks to a number of treatment options and devices that can greatly improve their quality of life.

The most commonly prescribed low vision devices and aids include:

  • Handheld and stand magnifiers
  • Handheld or glasses-mounted telescopes
  • Electronic (video) magnification
  • Glasses-mounted magnifiers
  • Assistive technology - such as screen speech/readers and software enlargement programs

Large-type books, magazines, and newspapers, as well as books on tape, talking wristwatches, self-threading needles and other products can also help those with visual impairment.

Live life to the fullest. Contact Kissel Eye Care Low Vision Center to book an evaluation of your vision and recommend the right low vision device for you.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Collins

Q: What is a low vision test?

  • A: A low vision test includes components that are not usually part of a standard eye test. Your vision will be evaluated to assess the nature of your vision loss after testing your visual acuity. This will aid the doctor in determining how low vision is affecting you and your ability to perform day-to-day activities.

Q: What causes low vision?

  • A: Traumatic brain and eye injuries, as well as congenital vision problems and uncorrected refractive errors, are all common causes. As you age, you are more likely to develop various eye conditions, like cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. Left untreated, these conditions can eventually lead to low vision and eventually blindness.