Objective: To characterize the traits of low vision patients who seek outpatient low vision rehabilitation (LVR) services in the United States.
Methods: In a prospective observational study, we enrolled 764 new low vision patients seeking outpatient LVR services from 28 clinical centers in the United States. Before their initial appointment, multiple questionnaires assessing daily living and vision, physical, psychological, and cognitive health states were administered by telephone. Baseline clinical visual impairment measures and disorder diagnoses were recorded.
Results: Patients had a median age of 77 years, were primarily female (66%), and had macular disease (55%), most of which was nonneovascular age-related macular degeneration. More than one-third of the patients (37%) had mild vision impairment with habitual visual acuity (VA) of 20/60 or greater. The VA correlated well with contrast sensitivity (r = -0.52) but poorly with self-reported vision quality. The intake survey revealed self-reported physical health limitations, including decreased endurance (68%) and mobility problems (52%). Many patients reported increased levels of frustration (42%) and depressed mood (22%); memory and cognitive impairment (11%) were less frequently endorsed. Patients relied on others for daily living support (87%), but many (31%) still drove.
Conclusions: Most patients seeking LVR are geriatric and have macular disease with relatively preserved VA. The disparity between VA and subjective quality of vision suggests that LVR referrals are based on symptoms rather than on VA alone. Patients seen for LVR services have significant physical, psychological, and cognitive disorders that can amplify vision disabilities and decrease rehabilitation potential.