Low vision Overview

The goal of the Mayo Clinic low vision specialty group is to help you make the most of the vision you have.

Low vision means having impaired vision that cannot be corrected by glasses, surgery or medication. The most common cause of low vision is macular degeneration, an age-related disease that affects the central portion of your visual field. Other common causes include glaucoma, cataracts and diabetes.

Low vision affects every person differently and requires looking beyond conventional vision-improvement approaches to focus on the patient's particular problem.


A visit with an expert in the Mayo Clinic low vision specialty group will include the following:

  • Comprehensive low vision exam and assessment. You may already have received an eye exam from an eye doctor, but during a visit with the Mayo Clinic low vision specialty group, a doctor will give you an extended, refined vision exam. This exam helps pinpoint which lenses or low vision devices will help you achieve the clearest possible image.
  • Follow-up and referral. You may be referred to an occupational therapist for training in the use of low vision aids, or a medical social worker can refer you to agencies or organizations in your area that help visually impaired people.

Low vision aids

The Mayo Clinic low vision team can offer an array of devices, practical tips and innovative ideas to help you.

  • Magnifiers. Magnification devices can be hand-held, free-standing, or mounted on a headband or on your eyeglasses. You can also wear magnifiers around your neck. Many models have a built-in light or incorporate various levels of magnification.
  • Telescopes. You might try any of a variety of miniature telescopes and binoculars, some worn like eyeglasses. They may help you with distance viewing.
  • Special eyeglasses. You may find that stronger-than-normal bifocal or trifocal glasses help you see better. Or you may have success with high-power, prismatic "half-eye" reading glasses. These help the good spots in one eye cancel out the bad spots in another.
  • Electronic technology. Many high-tech vision aids are available. They include video reading systems that enlarge type 60 times, auto-focus spectacle telescopes and talking computer systems.