Loss of vision is one of the leading causes of disability in older people, decreasing quality of life (QoL) and increasing levels of depression among those affected. Several studies in the field of low vision rehabilitation have focused on objective tasks or specific measures of functional ability, but often neglect to include the patient’s subjective experience. A recent meta-analysis aimed to be more inclusive of both task-specific activities and broader QoL effects when assessing the efficacy of low vision rehabilitation in visually impaired adults.

A total of 52 randomized controlled trials representing 6,239 participants were included. Compared to low vision patients who didn’t receive interventions, low vision rehabilitation improved vision-related quality of life, visual functioning and self-efficacy or self-esteem. However, no significant difference in health-related quality of life and adaptation to vision loss was found.

The report calls attention to the value of the sometimes-overlooked intervention of psychotherapy focused on resolving emotional and behavioral problems that stem from low vision. Eyecare providers may tend to emphasize improvement in visual task performance when discussing interventions; the psychological component of low vision should also be addressed by an appropriate specialist.

“The interpretation of our results is complicated by the fact that low vision rehabilitation is not a standard process, as interventions are highly tailored and can vary in different settings, where a mixture of different optometric or therapeutic components are used,” the authors noted in their study.

The authors suggest further studies should explore longer maintenance effects and the costs of several types of low vision rehabilitation, as well as characterizing the mechanisms of rehabilitation interventions in different settings such as low-income countries.

Liu J, Dong J, Chen Y, et al. Low vision rehabilitation in improving the quality of life for patients with impaired vision. Medicine (Baltimore). 2021 May 14. Epub ahead of print.