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Potential Impact of Visual Impairment on Vocational Activities

Potential Impact of Visual Impairment on Vocational Activities
Elsa Zavoda, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, CLVT
July 31, 2016

Elsa Zavoda: Hello, everyone. Thank you in advance for attending my presentation today.  We are going to review eye diseases and conditions to get started. I do review these eye diseases and conditions in brevity. I ask that if you would like more detailed information about them to please do research on your own to obtain more information. I did not want to lose too much of our seminar time in speaking about the physiology of these diseases.

Causes of Visual Impairment

Some causes of visual impairment are shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Visual impairments.


Cataract is one example, which causes a blurred, distorted vision, scattering of light rays, and decreased color and brightness.

Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration causes central vision impairment with blurring and distortion. It prevents an individual from seeing colors and details, such as small print.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy can create a myriad of symptoms. It can affect a person's ability to see centrally or peripherally.


Glaucoma can cause central and peripheral visual field defects but is most notably known for causing peripheral visual field defects. In end-stage glaucoma, it can also cause central visual field loss.

Optic Neuropathy

Optic neuropathy can cause a sudden loss of vision.

Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis is a sudden loss of vision as well, that can occur in an individual who has a neurological disorder, such as multiple sclerosis.


Stroke can cause visual field defects affecting central and peripheral vision.


Finally trauma can cause visual problems.


This is a picture of normal vision (Figure 2).


Figure 2. No visual impairment.

This is how this same picture would look to someone with cataracts (Figure 3). 


Figure 2. Vision distorted by cataracts.

As you can see there is blurring, distortion, muting of colors, and a general haze. A simulation would be to put a plastic baggy up to your eyes. It would mimic what a cataract would be like.

Macular degeneration, or Stargardt's macular dystrophy, which is a juvenile form of macular degeneration, causes that central blurring and distortion that you are seeing here in the center of the picture. The peripheral area of the picture is clear, but centrally you are losing details (Figure 3).


Figure 3. Central blurring or distortion caused by Stargardt's macular dystrophy.

For example, in a social situation, perhaps you could not see someone's face or facial details. 

This is an example of another more pronounced form of it where you are getting a distortion and a metamorphopsia where things are shifting (Figure 4).

elsa zavoda

Elsa Zavoda, MS, OTR/L, SCLV, CLVT

Elsa Zavoda, MS OTR/L, SCLV, CLVT is an Occupational Therapist with 19 years of clinical experience, serving in a variety of settings.  Ms. Zavoda originally graduated from the University of Indianapolis with a Master of Science in Occupational Therapy.  Ms. Zavoda obtained a Graduate Certificate in Low Vision Rehabilitation from the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2007 under the leadership of Mary Warren, MS OTR/L, FAOTA, SCLV.  She has since served as a teaching assistant, working directly with Ms. Warren.  Ms. Zavoda has been concentrating in the field of Low Vision Rehabilitation since 2006.  Ms. Zavoda is the 16th Occupational Therapist in the U.S, and the first in NJ to be awarded Specialty Certification in Low Vision (SCLV) from AOTA in January 2010.  She also has earned her Certified Low Vision Therapist (CLVT) credential from ACVREP in September 2010.  Ms. Zavoda has successfully established and implemented 3 low vision programs in NJ, and currently practices at The Low Vision Center of Central NJ.  Ms. Zavoda currently serves on the Advisory Panel as a Vision Expert for Occupational Therapy.com.

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