Learn About Vision Loss and Blindness

Whether you have vision loss yourself, or you have a co-worker or family member who does, no doubt you have many questions.



If you are just beginning your vision loss journey and are interested in finding out more about living with low vision, watch this video produced by the National Eye Institute.






A Growing Need

Age-related vision loss has a big impact on seniors' ability to continue living safely and independently in their own home.


The Lighthouse Center for Vital Living provides services to clients of all ages, but the need among seniors is growing. Individuals experiencing vision loss have:

  • twice the risk of falling

  • four times the risk of sustaining a hip fracture

  • three times the risk of depression

  • and are admitted to nursing homes three years earlier


The state of Minnesota projects that, by 2030, one in four Minnesotans will be a senior. Research also suggests that as many as ONE IN FIVE OF THESE SENIORS could have vision loss (Source: AFB Special Report on Aging.)


Poor outcomes like these can often be prevented. The vision rehabilitation field, also known as the blindness field, can teach seniors with vision loss how to do things in new ways, empowering them to continue to live safe and vibrant lives. Studies point to the effectiveness of vision rehabilitation training in reducing risk of falling, improved emotional adjustment to vision loss, improved ability to move safely about the home and community and improved adjustment in everyday life.


Unfortunately, far too few seniors know about or access vision rehabilitation services. As stated in the recent, nationally acclaimed documentary, Going Blind, “Of the 25 million blind and visually impaired Americans, only 5% seek vision rehabilitation services of any kind. … Vision loss will touch each of us either directly or through someone we love.”


The Lighthouse Center for Vital Living is working to address the need and improve health outcomes for seniors with vision loss. Our Occupational Therapists are helping more seniors with vision loss stay safe and independent in their own homes, along with our team of professionals working to improve public understanding, and expand services and access for seniors in the region.


Common Eye Conditions

The Lighthouse believes that low vision or blindness shouldn't stand in the way of individuals living safe, independent, vibrant lives.


Individuals who have been diagnosed with low vision or legal blindness may benefit from any of a variety of available optical devices, assistive technologies and adjustment to vision loss training.


Vision loss or low vision means a visual impairment that, after best correction, still impedes a person's ability to carry on everyday activities. Most people with vision loss still have functionally useful sight. Low vision may be caused by macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, or other eye conditions or diseases. Low vision may range from moderate impairment to near-total blindness. It cannot be fully corrected by eyeglasses, contact lenses, or surgery. (Definition from the American Foundation for the Blind)


Legal blindness is a level of visual impairment that has been defined by law to determine eligibility for benefits. It refers to central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction, or a visual field of 20 degrees or less. This is not the same thing as total blindness in which a person has no vision or may only see light or shadows. (Definition courtesy of the American Foundation for the Blind).


Below is a list of Common Eye Conditions that can cause low vision. This list is not comprehensive and some individuals have more than one condition affecting their vision. For information on other eye conditions not listed below, visit the American Foundation for the Blind's glossary of eye conditions.


Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-Related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision you need for “straight-ahead” activities such as reading, sewing, and driving.



A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision that makes it seem as if you are looking through a haze. Most cataracts are related to aging.


Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic Retinopathy is a complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness. It occurs when diabetes damages the tiny blood vessels inside the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.



Glaucoma is an eye disease, related to high pressure inside the eye, which damages the optic nerve and leads to vision loss. Glaucoma affects the peripheral or side vision.


Retinal Detachment

The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye and sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. When the retina detaches, it is lifted or pulled from its normal position.


Retinitis Pigmentosa

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is a genetic eye condition. People who have RP first experience gradual vision loss in their side vision and night vision, and later in their central vision.



You can experience for yourself what different types of vision loss by trying simulator glasses, or watching this video.



Blind New World: Change the way you see

Is it possible we fear blindness so much that we exclude those without sight?


Stigmas, misperceptions and deep feelings about blindness lead us to marginalize and exclude this highly capable population. It’s time to create a BlindNewWorld. 


The goal of the BlindNewWorld social change campaign is to demystify blindness and advocate greater inclusion of people who are blind or visually impaired in society.


The Drive - Audio Described Version


The Get Together - Audio Described Version


BlindNewWorld is sponsored by Perkins School for the Blind, where Helen Keller challenged and dramatically changed society’s perceptions of individuals with disabilities.


Visit BlindNewWorld.org to learn more about being inclusive and hear first-hand stories.