Low Vision Rehabilitation Outcomes Assessment

The Low Vision Rehabilitation Service at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota is committed to improving the quality of life for its patients who are visually impaired. The service uses a variety of techniques and technologies to allow patients with vision loss to use their remaining vision to lead independent, productive lives.

The Service is working with two groups of investigators studying the effects of vision rehabilitation services on the quality of life of patients. One, funded by the National Eye Institute, is studying ways to more accurately assess the measured gains in visual function. The other is determining the types of vision loss and the level of visual functioning of patients in low vision rehabilitation settings. The results of both of these studies will help us determine which treatment strategies work the best, and will help use structure rehabilitation programs most effective for individual patients. We recruit patients for these studies to obtain data which is then included with information from sites around the country and analyzed by the researchers.

Posterior cortical atrophy

Vision is a complex and dynamic neurologic process. The eyes collect light which is transferred into a signal that is sent to the visual center of the brain. It is those signals that the brain translates into what we know as vision. Sometimes the brain is unable to properly translate that information. In those cases, the patient will have difficulty identifying common objects, words, faces, or coordinating physical activities controlled by the visual system.

The Low Vision Rehabilitation Service is working in conjunction with researchers from the Mayo Clinic Department of Neurology to determine the origins of visual perception problems caused by posterior cortical atrophy. Patients with this condition (sometimes referred to as the "visual variant of Alzheimer's") have a wide range of difficulty with even simple tasks like reading, writing, pouring liquids, and identifying familiar objects. There is no know cure for this condition, but we are working on ways to minimize the effects on visual perception, and we are designing rehabilitation techniques to cope with these vision changes. The unique aspects of this process may also help us in rehabilitating other patients with neurological vision loss.

Vision impairment in children

Visually impaired children are not just small adults. They have unique needs and challenges. They also have impaired vision arising from structural and disease processes that are different from adults. Finally, there must be a transition from the medical and refractive care into the child's educational program. The specialists in the Low Vision Rehabilitation Service work closely with teachers of the visually impaired and physicians at Mayo Clinic to provide comprehensive care for children with vision loss.

Much of the research on vision rehabilitation is focused on adults. The Mayo Low Vision Service is studying the validity of using testing and treatment techniques established for adults when used in a pediatric population. We recruit study subjects in our Rochester Clinic as well as during our field clinics sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Illumination characteristics of lighted stand magnifiers

Self-lighted stand magnifiers are an important means for helping patients who have low vision to read and perform other near tasks. There are many different types of illumination used in these magnifiers, including incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, and LED (light-emitting diode). The brightness and color of these types of illumination differ significantly. The Low Vision Service is actively measuring and categorizing these characteristics with the goal of making prescription more logical.