Low vision clinic: helping people with sight loss become more independent

Michael Crossland, specialist optometrist, answers common questions about the low vision clinic at Moorfields. 

My name is Michael Crossland and I am a specialist optometrist at Moorfields Eye Hospital. I work in the low vision clinic and I specialise in the assessment and rehabilitation of adults and children with sight loss.

Part of my role is to show patients how low vision aids such as spectacles, magnifiers or telescopes can help them to make the most of their remaining sight. This can help people with sight loss become more independent and make everyday tasks a little bit easier.

I recently answered some of the common questions people ask me about low vision assessments for Sideview, the Macular Society’s quarterly membership magazine.

How do I get a low vision appointment?
The best person to refer you to a low vision clinic is your eye doctor as they will know the appropriate services near to you.

Depending on where you live, your appointment may be in a hospital department, a rehabilitation centre, or a community or high street optician practice. In some parts of the UK you may be visited at home if you can’t get to appointments easily.

What happens in the low vision clinic?
The appointment will usually take about an hour. It will probably start with a discussion about your eyesight and the particular impact that sight loss has on your hobbies, work and other activities. We will also ask whether you live alone and if your eyesight has caused you to fall recently. If appropriate we will check whether you have been registered as sight impaired.

Following this, we’ll measure your vision on a variety of charts. Often you will be asked to read a “normal” distance sight chart, a reading chart, and another chart on which the letters get fainter rather than smaller so we can check your contrast sensitivity.

We will check whether your glasses are the best ones for you and provide advice about the type of glasses that are likely to be most helpful - for example, bifocals or single reading glasses.

Next we demonstrate various magnifiers. These may include hand and stand magnifiers, telescopes and strong reading glasses. We may show you some electronic magnifiers as well. Finally we’ll give you advice about other sources of information and support.

What should I bring with me?
It’s a good idea to bring any glasses you are currently using, although we probably don’t need to see spare pairs, or glasses from many years ago that you don’t use now. If you are struggling with particular hobbies, such as reading music, embroidery or woodwork, you can bring examples of these tasks with you so we can try out different glasses and magnifiers.

Do I need to do anything before my appointment?
A few days before your appointment, think about specific difficulties you have. Don’t worry about problems seeming ‘trivial’ or silly. From painting your toenails to plucking your eyebrows, or from playing darts to reading the Argos catalogue - if it matters to you, we will try and help you see more clearly.

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