We live in Seattle, but my husband and I are huge
Yankees fans. In airports, I ask strangers to read
the departure and arrival monitors for me—and
I’ve never had a mean experience. I do the same
thing in a fast-food shop if I can’t read the menu
board. Mainly I don’t get embarrassed about my
difficulties. I’m motivated by my need to get
something done, so I improvise. My friends help
and I help my friends, too. That’s what’s so won-
derful about friends.”
Another thing he suggested was, “Make sure
you are a student. Ask questions and learn about
your eye problems so you can speak authoritatively
to your family members, employers, your kids,
and yes, to the traffic cop who may have pulled
you over. Certain eye movements common to
people with MS indicate drugs or alcohol to the
police. To be empowered, you need to be able to
speak up and explain your condition.”
The social impact of low vision
Other people with low vision face other obstacles
and may feel differently about them. It can be
hard to eat neatly in a public place. Outings may
seem less fun when others are excited about the
sights they see clearly. To have a companion read
a restaurant menu out loud may feel humiliating.
It’s all too human to respond by avoiding problem
situations. But avoiding restaurants, the movies,
sports events, shopping, going out at night? There
has to be a better way!
Dr. Elliot Frohman, longtime MS specialist in
the Neurology Department at University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center, strongly agrees.
“Seek out a low-vision specialist,” is
his first suggestion.
“People with low vision need an
individual assessment and a professional who is able to teach the tricks
and cues for individual needs,” he told
Momentum. “It’s very uncommon
for MS to produce longstanding total
visual loss,” he continued. “But low contrast acuity
is often affected. In other words, the person will do
fine on the usual eye test: black letters on a white
background. Driving during the day might be fine,
too, but at dusk it’s a different matter. Getting up
at night to go to the bathroom in dim light can
become really risky. And as low contrast gets worse,
people tend to curtail their social life. But there are
many ways to reduce the risk of injuries and put
fun back in life,” he said.
Who knows low vision?
We asked Debra Entin, MS, RN, CPNP, director
Vision problems tend to
of Lighthouse International Center for Education
and a former staff member of the National MS
Society’s Clinical Program Department. “A person
can get qualified help from an optometrist or an
ophthalmologist who specializes in low vision,”
she said. “A low-vision specialist can prescribe low-
vision devices and help people learn which ones
work in which situations—but it’s best to start
with a thorough low-vision exam. That alone may
take up to an hour and half. No one size is going
to fit all.”
“There’s also a lot to learn,” Entin emphasized.
“You can’t just pop into a drugstore, buy a mag-
come and go, so flexibility
helps. So does humor.
nifying glass, and get good results. It is important
that a low-vision eye doctor assesses your vision
and prescribes appropriate devices.
“In looking for organizational resources, don’t be
dissuaded by the word ‘blind,’ ” Entin continued.
“It means low vision, too. Every state has a commission or office for the visually impaired. Your
Society chapter may have low-vision specialists on
its referral list.” A Lighthouse database, “Find Help
in Your Area,” is online at