Low Vision Services

Visual impairment can have a profound effect on people’s lives. At New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE), our team of experts works closely with patients struggling with low vision, which is impaired sight that cannot be corrected with standard glasses or contact lenses. Our goal is to empower our patients to maintain their independence and improve their quality of life by accomplishing everyday tasks, whether it’s doing household chores, reading, driving, cooking, or playing board games.  

NYEE is one of the few eye centers in the tristate area with a dedicated optometrist specializing in low vision. During the initial thorough, one-hour appointment, we conduct an assessment to determine the nature of the patient’s vision loss, how it limits their daily routines, and what their personal goals are for maintaining an active lifestyle. Some patients mistakenly believe that low vision services are for those with profound vision loss, but we can help patients with even mild low vision.

Our multidisciplinary team may include specially trained ophthalmologists, optometrists, social workers, nurses, occupational therapists, career counselors, and orientation and mobility specialists. They may prescribe special low-vision devices or in-home training that enables patients to safely perform household tasks or to travel, or they may connect patients with professionals offering emotional support. We can also refer patients to a wide network of organizations and agencies throughout the tristate area that provides resources to help people make the most of the sight that they have.

Do Patients Need a Referral to See a Low Vision Specialist?
Although many patients are referred to our low vision services team by their eye care provider, a referral is not required.

Eye care providers that wish to refer a patient should use the Patient Referral Form for Low Vision Rehabilitation Services.

Does a Low Vision Specialist Replace My Regular Eye Care Provider?
Patients should continue to be under the care of their regular ophthalmologist or optometrist. The low vision specialist and the services offered are a complement, and not a substitute for, the care of a regular eye care provider.

What are the Symptoms of Low Vision?
Low vision compromises peripheral (side) and/or central sight. Symptoms may include the following:

  • Difficulty watching television or recognizing familiar faces
  • Difficulty reading or looking at a computer screen, with print appearing broken, distorted, or incomplete
  • Difficulty identifying objects and potential hazards such as walls, furniture, steps, curbs, and uneven surfaces

What Causes Low Vision?
Low vision can be caused by various eye diseases or injuries, including the following:

  • Macular Degeneration can affect central vision and the ability to read and see faces. Straight lines may appear wavy, and dark or empty spots may block the center of vision.
  • Glaucoma may result in the loss of peripheral (side) vision and difficulty seeing at night
  • Cataracts may cause cloudy vision
  • Diabetic Retinopathy may cause distorted or blurry vision

What Resources are Available for People with Low Vision?
Our low vision experts can order a wide range of devices for making the most of a patient’s vision. Some devices, software programs, and smart phone apps are very high tech though easy to use, while others, like magnifiers, tinted lenses, and telescopes that mount to eyeglasses are more traditional. All are designed to help patients make the most of their remaining sight. Non-optical devices such as large-print clocks, telephones, remote controls, and money readers as well as signature and writing guides are also popular. Devices that can scan a book or computer screen and read it aloud, or cameras that can identify the faces of loved ones and acquaintances can be very helpful. New and improved devices are constantly being developed.

We may also refer patients for mobility training, training for household tasks, and technology training.  

The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary Institute for Continuing Medical Education has created a comprehensive Compendium of Low Vision Resources for patients and professionals.