Florida Eye Center 727-895-2020

Low Vision

Welcome to the Florida Eye Center Low Vision center.  Find answers to frequently asked questions, low vision aids and devices, low vision specialists, and more.

What is low vision?

If ordinary eyeglasses, contact lenses or intraocular lens implants don’t give you clear vision, you may have low vision. You should not confuse this condition with blindness. People with low vision still have functional vision that can often be improved with visual devices.

Whether your visual impairment is mild or severe, low vision generally means that your vision does not meet your needs. Using visual devices to improve your vision usually begins after your ophthalmologist has completed medical or surgical treatments.

What causes low vision?

Though most often experienced by the elderly, people of all ages may be affected. Low vision can occur from birth defects, inherited diseases, injuries, diabetes, glaucoma, cataract and aging. The most common cause is macular degeneration, a disease of the retina, the inner layer of the eye that senses light and allows you to see. Macular degeneration causes damage to central vision. It does not cause total blindness because side (peripheral) vision is not affect.

Are there different types of low vision?

Yes. Although reduced central or reading vision is most common, low vision may also result from decreased side (peripheral) vision, or a loss of color vision. Or, your eye might lose the ability to adjust to light, contrast or glare.  Different types of low vision may require different kinds of assistance. For example, people born with low vision have different needs from those who develop low vision later in life.

What is a low vision device?

A low vision devise is an apparatus that improves vision. There is no one device that restores normal vision in all circumstances, so you may need different devices for different purposes. If possible, try a device before you buy it to see if it is useful for you.

There are two types of low vision devices: optical and non-optical.

Optical low vision devices

Optical low vision devices use lenses or combinations of lenses to provide magnification. They should not be confused with standard eyeglasses.

There are five main kinds of optical devices:

  • Magnifying spectacles are stronger than ordinary glasses. When you use them, you need to hold your reading material very close; otherwise the print is out of focus. This may feel awkward at first, but you will become used to it. They are designed for close work, so magnifying spectacles leave both hands free to hold reading material.
  • Hand magnifiers are familiar to most people and can be purchased in department or drug stores. Often stronger magnifiers are warranted. These often require reading materials be held very close to the eye(s).
  • Stand magnifiers rest on the reading material. Some have a self-contained light source. These require the patient to bend so that their eyes are in alignment with the magnifier.
  • Telescopes are used for distance magnification. They may be hand held for locating distant objects, or mounted in spectacles for prolonged viewing..
  • Closed-circuit television produces an enlarged image on a television screen. With adjustable magnification and contrast, a closed-circuit television is often easier to use than other devices.

Non-optical low vision devices

  • Large-print books, newspapers and magazines;
  • Check-writing guides;
  • Large playing cards;
  • Enlarged telephone dials;
  • High-contrast watch faces;
  • Machines that talk (timers, clocks, computers);
  • Machines that scan print and read aloud.
  • The simplest non-optical technique is getting closer to what you want to see. Holding reading material very close to your eyes or sitting as close as one foot from the television screen will not cause eye damage, contrary to popular belief.

Is lighting important for people with low vision?

Correct lighting is as important as a low vision device. With no eye disorder, a 60-year-old person may need twice the illumination he or she needed at 20 to comfortable perform the same task. Some lighting tips:

  • Place the light source close to your reading material for greatest visibility. High intensity lights with adjustable arms work well for this purpose.
  • Visors and hat brims block annoying overhead light;
  • Absorptive lenses are useful in controlling glare.

What services are available for low vision patients?

A complete eye examination is essential. Once the cause of your low vision is determined, your doctor may suggest low vision devices or may refer you to other low vision specialists or agencies for further assistance.  Government and private agencies provide social services for people with low vision. These include talking books, independent home-living instruction and, in some cases, orientation and mobility training.

Low Vision Aids

  • Pocket Magnifiers
  • Hand Held Magnifiers
  • Stand Magnifiers
  • Illuminated Magnifiers
  • Head Torn Magnifiers
  • Telescopic Systems
  • Solar Shields for Daily Living Aids
  • Computer / Video Magnifier

Low Vision Specialists

For more information call Florida Eye Center at 727-895-2020.

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Medical Director


Mark A. Sibley, MD, FACS
LASIK, Refractive, Cataract, and Laser Specialist
Board Certified Eye Surgeon

Contact & Hours

Phone: (727) 895-2020
Fax: (727) 823-8796

Monday 8:30 - 5:00
Tuesday 8:30 - 6:30
Wednesday 8:30 - 5:00
Thursday 8:30 - 5:00
Friday 8:30 - 4:30




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The information contained herein is intended to be educational and is not intended in any way as a substitute for medical advice and care from qualified vision care providers. Consult a vision care professional in matters relating to visual health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or medical attention.
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