Finding a Low Vision Specialist
Losing your vision is very difficult, especially for those who have relied on their sight all of their lives. Whether vision is lost slowly or quickly, there are a lot of adjustments that need to be made in your daily life, and it can be difficult to cope with the uncertainty of the future. You will need to find an eye care professional who will help you prevent further vision loss, if possible, and make the most of what vision you have left. You also want a doctor who is compassionate and can help you find ways to deal with your loss and make the best of the situation.
It is important that you find a doctor who not only understands the mechanics of what you are going through, but the real human emotion of it as well. Your low vision specialist is not just another doctor after all, but the key to keeping you from total vision loss for as long as possible.
Why a specialist?
Some low vision patients will stay with their regular eye doctor because they feel comfortable with him or her and don't see a point in finding a specialist. Or they may stay out of a sense of obligation because they feel it would be rude or hurtful to switch doctors. Nothing could be further from the truth. After all, if you were diagnosed with cancer, you would see an oncologist for treatment, not stay with your general practitioner, right? Caring for your eyes is no different. A low vision specialist will have better knowledge of your condition, new and advanced treatment techniques and the latest research while your regular eye doctor may not. A specialist will also be more familiar with the emotional and daily trials associated with vision loss.
Your current eye care professional will understand why you wish to seek more specialized treatment for your condition. In fact, he or she can actually be a great resource to help you find the right low vision specialist.
Where to start your search
A referral from your eye doctor is a great place to start, but don't assume that this is the only name you will need. That is just a starting point for your list, which should grow to include at least four specialists, if possible. (In smaller areas, you might have to settle for a smaller number, unless you're willing to travel.)
Other resources for low vision eye care specialists:
- Professional referral services
- Low vision support groups
- Internet research results
- Yellow pages of the local phone book
What you need to find out
Schedule consultations with several low vision specialists so that you can interview them. When you get to the office, pay attention to the layout and keep in mind that if your vision worsens, it will become more difficult to navigate. For example, is it easy to get through the front door and find your way to the office? If you find yourself traveling down a dark, obstacle-laden corridor to get to the low vision specialistís office, someone has seriously dropped the ball, haven't they?
When you speak to the doctor, you need to find out what they consider to be the latest in the treatment of your condition - if anything. Your goal is to find someone who can balance their exuberance for the latest thing with pragmatic approaches to the here and now. Make sure that in addition to excitedly talking about new clinical trials and surgeries that can be helpful in the future, they are able to talk about adaptive devices and techniques that can help you make the most of the vision that you have at this very second.
A good low vision specialist should also be able to talk knowledgeably about your particular eye disorder, but keep in mind that knowledgeably does not mean technically. Unless, you are yourself an eye care professional and have made that clear to the doctor at the outset, there should be no long, technical terms used without including the layman's explanation. On the other hand, a good doctor should not talk down to you either, or make you feel stupid or uncomfortable when you have questions. If the doctor makes you feel like you're a waste of his or her time, that's definitely a sign that you should choose someone else.
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