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Frequently Asked Questions?

What is low vision?

Low vision refers to vision that cannot be improved by using glasses or contact lenses only.

What causes low vision?

The most common cause for low vision is an aging condition of the eyes called age related macular degeneration (AMD). However, young adults and even children can be diagnosed as having low vision from congenital eye diseases like nystagmus or retinitis pigmentosa. Others may develop low vision from complications of diabetes called diabetic retinopathy, or have loss of vision from the effects of glaucoma.

Will a low vision exam restore vision affected by the causes above?

No, the purpose of a low vision evaluation is to find compensatory strategies to supplement glasses or contact lenses. This typically involves adapting to visual aids like magnifiers or telescopes, which are optical in nature, or through the use of non-optical aids, including lighting and contrast environmental modifications.

How long does the evaluation take?

Depending on the level of vision loss, an evaluation can take up to an hour and will involve testing the vision, an examination of the eyes and an exploration of different optical and non-optical strategies most suited for the level of vision loss.

Will my eyes be checked for new glasses to improve the vision?

If necessary, a ”refraction” will be performed to determine whether new glasses or a change in the prescription of the current glasses would be helpful in addition to the strategies described above.

Is a low vision evaluation covered by insurance?

Most insurances, including Medicare, do recognize the low vision evaluation as part of a medical process to provide vision rehabilitation to help people afflicted with the conditions of the eyes described above. However, refractions, glasses and visual aids are not typically covered by medical insurance and will be an “out of pocket” expense.

Are there any other ways of getting help?

The low vision evaluation is just the entry point into the vision rehabilitation process. Your doctor will refer you as appropriate to low vision occupational therapy, independent living skills training through state rehabilitation agencies, orientation and mobility training, vocational rehabilitation or to itinerant vision teachers who help visually impaired children within the school system.

Are there resources to help visually impaired individuals within our community?

Most people who experience vision loss need to learn how to make adjustments to their way of life to gradually adapt to the low vision. There are many support groups run by local not for profit agencies, transportation alternatives for those who can no longer drive and services offered specifically for the visually impaired like “talking books.” Your doctor will guide you to these resources.

Is being “legally blind” the same as having low vision?

Legal blindness is a term used to describe a specific level of vision loss that might make the individual with low vision eligible for disability insurance, a tax exemption and community resources such as the ones described above.


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4942 St. Elmo Avenue
Bethesda MD 20814

(inside Colonial Opticians at the corner of Old Georgetown Road and St. Elmo Avenue)
Nearest Metro station is Bethesda about 4 blocks away


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103 South Alfred St
Alexandria, VA 22314

(at the corner of King St. and Alfred St., part of the 900 King Street historic building)
Nearest Metro station is King Street about 6 blocks away

Washington DC:

233 Massachusetts Ave NE
Washington DC, 2002