Macular degeneration

What is low vision?

I have read two definitions:

  • “Low vision is the term used to refer to a visual impairment that is not correctable through surgery, pharmaceuticals, glasses or contact lenses. It is often characterised by partial sight, such as blurred vision, blind spots or tunnel vision. Low vision can impact people of all ages, but is primarily associated with older adults.”and,
  • “Low vision is ‘not enough vision to do whatever it is you need to do’, which can vary from person to person”.


Your vision can deteriorate with age; however, vision loss does not have to be an accepted part of growing old. A yearly eye examination by an optometrist or vision specialist can identify potential vision problems before they occur. In my case a simple trip to the optometrist to organise a new pair of reading glasses revealed the fact I have Age Related Macular Degeneration. I still needed the new reading glasses, and I was given a referral to an eye specialist who is now treating my macular disease.

Because of this early diagnosis the specialist has told me “I will have very useful vision for a long time”. I am now 63 and a bit so ‘a long time’ sounds like very good news to me.
Some of the more common causes of low vision include:

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): AMD is the leading cause of vision loss, for example in the USA it accounts for nearly 50% of all low vision cases. It is caused when the macular breaks down which can cause the loss of central vision, please see this link for more information about AMD.

Glaucoma: is the second major cause of low vision and it can occur without warning. For more info about glaucoma please use this link.

Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy affects blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye. It is a major cause of blindness and it is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes.

Cataracts: Most of the eye’s lens is made of water and protein, and the protein is arranged in an exact way to keep the lens clear. As we grow older some of the protein may clump together creating a cataract. Over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.

Vision is also an important factor in maintaining balance. Since 2011 In the USA the rate of life-threatening injuries after a fall since has nearly doubled when compared to the previous decade.

It is a shock when you discover your vision loss cannot be reversed, however please remember it can be treated. So, organise the professional help that will provide you with the strategies and treatments to keep you active and safe. Also, why not have a look at the low vision aids we have created to assist in some of your most common daily activities, you will find everything you need here:


by John Owens –


The Blind Benefactor – Joseph Pulitzer

Joseph Pulitzer was an American newspaper editor and publisher who helped establish the design of contemporary newspapers. However, he is probably better known for posthumously establishing the Pulitzer Prizes (along with William Randolph Hearst). He is also one of the most historic figures to have detached retinas, which eventually lead to him becoming blind at the age of 42.


Joseph Pulitzer, detail of a portrait by C. de Grimm from The Curio, November 1887.Copyright the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Joseph was born in Hungary then moved to Budapest with his family when his father retired. He tried to join the army at age 17 and was rejected because of his bad eyesight and frail health by the Austrian and British armies and the French Foreign Legion. He then moved to the United States in 1864 as a recruit for the Union Army in the American Civil War. After the war, he moved to New York then to St. Louis where he worked as a deckhand, a hack driver, a grave digger and briefly as a waiter.

His big break came when he joined a railroad company to record land entitlements. This led him to law school and he was admitted to the bar in 1868. He also became an American citizen in 1867. Pulitzer married Kate Davis in 1878 and they had seven children.

Pulitzer’s newspaper publishing efforts combined investigative journalism with publicity stunts which were very popular with his readers. He also introduced entertainment innovations such as comics, sports coverage and women’s fashion coverage into his newspapers which created the journalistic style that is still in use today.

In 1887 failing eyesight and his other illnesses forced Pulitzer to abandon the management of his newspapers. In 1890 he gave up his editorship of them as well however he continued to monitor their editorial policies.

Pulitzer died of heart failure in 1911 at the age of 64 and was buried in New York. in his will Pulitzer endowed the Columbia University School of Journalism which opened 1912. The school now oversees the Pulitzer Prize, an award given to those who excel in journalism, literature, and music. This has been awarded annually since 1917.

Joseph Pulitzer suffered from poor health and bad eyesight most of his life. His eyesight problems were caused by detached retinas in both his eyes. The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye and sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. When the retina detaches, it is lifted or pulled from its normal position, see diagram below. It is caused by inflammation, abnormal blood vessels, diseases such as diabetes or injury. If not promptly treated by surgery, retinal detachment can cause blindness.



Famous Ophthalmologists – Professor Fred Hollows


Professor Frederick Cossom “Fred” Hollows was a New Zealand and Australian ophthalmologist who is well known for providing quality eye care to those in need throughout the world. His work has been instrumental in advancing the number of people who are now able to receive high quality eye care and in the process he has helped over one million people regain their site.

Fred was born on April 9, 1929 in Dunedin, New Zealand. After working over one summer in a mental hospital he realised he wanted to help people in another way. This lead to him getting his BA degree at the Victoria University of Wellington and his medical degree from the Otago Medical School. Fred’s first job was assisting eye surgeons at New Zealand’s Auckland and Tauranga hospitals where he gained experience in the latest medical technology and was eventually able to perform surgery.

In 1961 he moved to the England to begin post-graduate training in ophthalmology at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He completed his fellowship at the Royal College of Surgeons and began working as an ophthalmology registrar in Wales. In 1965, he moved to Australia to become the Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of New South Wales.

In 1968 he began to focus on the large numbers of Australian Aborigines with eye diseases. Fred’s well documented efforts, dedication and persistence over many years lead to a substantial improvement in Aboriginal eye health.

During the 1980s and 1990s Fred continued his work via the poor communities in Nepal, Eritrea and Vietnam. He set up training programs so local technicians could perform the surgery, and he organised lens laboratories in each country to manufacture lenses economically.


Fred’s goal was to provide high quality eye care for those people who could not easily access it, and in 1992 he helped establish the Fred Hollows Foundation to meet this goal. Fred’s lifelong work continues today through the many clinics he established for the underprivileged.

His efforts were rewarded in 1990 when he was named the ‘Australian of the Year’. After fighting a long battle with cancer Professor Fred Hollows passed away on the 10th of February 1993.

By John Owens –