There are lots of misconceptions surrounding the term “legally blind.” It is not uncommon to hear people refer to themselves as “legally blind” without their glasses or contact lenses, and many people think legal blindness is synonymous with bad vision. Some people may think the term refers to complete blindness with no visual detection of light. These misunderstandings, while common, are not an accurate depiction of legal blindness.
Many people rely on visual correction such as glasses or contact lenses to see clearly. This is most commonly due to a dysfunction in the optical system of the eye, called refractive error. Refractive error can cause objects to appear blurry, but can easily be corrected by optical devices (such as contact lenses or glasses) allowing the patient to see normally. While patients with severe refractive error may feel handicapped without their spectacles or contact lenses, they are not considered legally blind.
What “Legally Blind” Really Means
In the US, “legally blind” is typically defined as best corrected vision of 20/200 in the better seeing eye. This means that even with glasses or contact lenses, those who are legally blind are unable to see better than 20/200. Legal blindness can also be defined by a constricted visual field, meaning that the patient’s peripheral vision has been severely diminished, leaving them with only a small amount of central vision. Instead of their poor vision being caused by refractive error, those who are legally blind typically have an ocular disease such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, or some form of retinopathy.
Is There Help Available?
Of course! There are a variety of devices such as magnifiers, telescopes, or portable screen to help people who are legally blind, The eye care professionals at Wilmington Family Eye Care specialize in the management of low vision in order to help maximize their patient’s visual function. Our optometrists can best address patient’s needs and help them find a device that will provide them with the most usable vision.