Your sight: your eyes and YOU
Vision is like a complex structure or sculpture, the essence of which cannot be captured in a single snapshot; as we approach it from different points of view, we may see very different aspects. To fully understand what is happening with your vision, it’s best to look at all of its aspects. On this website you can learn about:
- Ways your vision may change and the ways such changes may affect your life
- How to assess changes to your vision and when to seek medical diagnosis and treatment
- The nature of human vision
- Practical strategies for dealing with vision loss
- What help is available and how to get it
- Frequently asked questions
You can explore…
Your eyes and your vision
When we think about vision we tend to think about it as a single entity: “My vision is getting worse.” But there are many different aspects of vision, some focused on how your eyes function and some on how you are functioning in the world.
Are your eyes changing structurally? A doctor can evaluate if there are changes at the tissue level such as scarring, atrophy or loss.
However identifying structural changes doesn’t tell you and your doctor how well the eye actually functions. For this your doctor will measure aspects of ocular function such as visual acuity, contrast sensitivity and peripheral vision.
As important as knowing how your eyes are functioning is, this perspective does not address how YOU are functioning. Are vision changes affecting the activities of your daily life such as walking the streets, moving about your home, cooking, reading, and driving, to name but a few?
If your eye doctor does not address how changes to your vision is affecting your life, there is a lot you can do to for yourself. And there are professionals who can work with you. Are vision changes impacting your participation in family, work, and/or society? If so, there is help available.
Vision is often compared to photographing with a camera. While this may be a convenient analogy for the eye, it is a poor analogy for vision. The camera and photograph can not make sense of what the camera records. They are passive not active.
Vision is more than merely perceiving our environment. Vision is always trying to make sense of its input and tell us what it is seeing. For vision to be useful we must be able to act on our perceptions. We cannot make sense of vision outside the context of visually-guided actions and how they integrate with all other aspects our senses and behavior.
If you have a doctor, he or she is primarily concerned with how your eyes function. If you report a problem with your vision, your doctor is likely to translate that into analyzing your eyes’ condition. Focused on treating and controlling your eye condition, your doctor may not appreciate the problems you face from loss of vision (even mild loss).
Functional vision is the vision YOU use for particular purposes. We use functional visual skills to carry out our everyday activities.
While how you function in the world may be of secondary interest to your doctor, it is surely your primary concern. If you are facing vision problems that medical intervention can not reverse, there is much you can do to optimize your vision and maximize your quality of life.
How you do on a vision test performed at an eye doctor’s office does not necessarily tell you how you are using vision. You may have very poor vision, not good enough for detailed work such as sewing, cooking or reading, but still be able to move around safely, seeing and avoiding objects.
Functional vision can be improved
Even when treatment cannot reverse vision loss, your functional vision may be improved with training and with vision-enhancing devices. People can learn to make better use of their low vision and can function efficiently with only small amounts of visual information. What’s happening with my vision?