According to a report by the National Federation of the Blind issued in 2009, around 1.3 million people in the United States alone were legally blind at the time. It was a rise from the nearly 1 million people over the age of 40 in 2004, according to a study conducted by the Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group. The authors of the study estimated that the number of legally blind Americans would increase to 1.6 million by 2020, an increase of 70%! The increasing numbers make a lot of people worried and they are anxious to know if they are legally blind with their contact prescriptions. This article is focused on solving this question.
To Be Legally Blind, Prescription Matters or not?
It’s normal to come across questions like “My contact prescription is over -6.00. Am I legally blind?” Legally blindness is kind of a new concept and many people know little about it. But the sure thing is that contact prescription has nothing to do with legal blindness.
To be considered as legally blind, a person should only have a corrected vision of 20/200 or worse in their best seeing eye and the vision field is confined to only 20 degrees. And you are not legally blind if your vision can be corrected to 20/20 with the help of contact lenses, glasses, etc.
So no matter what your prescription is, be it 0.0, -5.75 or even -25, you are not legally blind if your best corrected vision is better than 20/200. This means no matter how thick your glass is and no matter how high your prescription is, if you can see will with your glasses or contact lenses on, you are not legally blind.
What Does It Feel to Be Legally Blind?
So what does a vision of 20/200 really mean? A simple contrast will clear things out. A person with a 20/20 vision would be able to see everything clearly from a distance of 200 feet away, whereas a legally blind person would need to move up to about 20 feet away from the object to see it just as clearly. A legally blind person cannot clearly see objects that are either too close or too far.
Then what does a vision field confined to 20 degrees mean? Normally, a person has a visual field of 180 degrees, but legally blind individuals only have a limited visual field of no more than 20 degrees. This means they can’t see objects right next to their shoulder. This makes driving and walking in dark places very difficult.
What Causes Legal Blindness?
We have known that for being legally blind, prescription has no part of it. So what actually causes legal blindness? In fact, there are a number of causes for an individual to become legally blind or be born with a visual disability. Legal blindness in the United States is mainly caused due to cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. A number of congenital conditions like infantile glaucoma, congenital cataracts and retinopathy of prematurity can also cause legal blindness. Neuropathy and Optic neuritis are other two causes of legal blindness.
How to Treat Legal Blindness
Vision impairment due to legal blindness is hard to reverse and the treatments should be primarily based on the nature of the blindness.
Antibiotics may help legal blindness caused by an underlying condition like cataracts or a parasite infection. Surgery may also be required in some cases.
2. Magnification Device
Although there is no relation between legally blind, prescription, glasses and contact lenses, certain magnificent devices prove to be beneficial. There are reading aids available for individuals who retain residual vision. Magnification devices, prescription glasses and specifically designed software programs can all help with reading and vision.
If legal blindness is caused due to an injury to the retina, then surgical procedures like retinal transplant can help restore vision. Currently, the malfunctioning structure is replaced with a healthy one from a donor. Researcher are analysing the benefits and possibilities of using stem cell transplants to help legally blind people.
4. Mobility Aids
If legal blindness caused by brain damage on the visual cortex or genetically rooted problems, medications and medical procedures are of no use. And legally blind individuals should consider visual aids for better quality of life.
Aids like trained seeing-eye dogs and walking canes can assist an individual in mobility. There are special government programs in various regions that provide assistance regarding visual aids and other therapeutic options. Legally blind individuals can enhance their quality of life by applying certain methods, like braille, that are specifically designed for the visually impaired.
How to Prevent Legal Blindness
If all the above information still can’t erase the worry you have about becoming legally blind, prescription, contact lenses, etc. Knowing that most forms of legal blindness are preventable may set your mind at rest.
Nutrition and infection based blindness can be minimized by improved healthcare. Make sure you and your families incorporate healthy eating habits and protect yourself against infections. Eye protection devices like goggles should be used in areas with higher risks of traumatic injuries.
A proper medical diagnosis is required to determine whether a person suffering from legal blindness will become completely blind. Be sure to seek top medical treatment. Do not give up even if vision restoration options are not available to you. Seek out counselling resources and rehabilitation to improve the quality of your life.