Declining Depth Perception

Declining Depth Perception

Posted under Eye Conditions, Eye Health, Living With Low Vision, Low Vision Info

When someone has been diagnosed with macular degeneration the most common symptom that comes to mind is the loss of straight ahead or the center part of one’s vision.  This vision loss affects one’s ability to read or to recognize a familiar face.  But there are other changes that can also affect one’s quality of life and ability to navigate in and outside of the home.  One of those vision losses is the loss of depth perception or the ability to perceive distance.  It can affect one’s life in many different ways such as :

The inability to distinguish how far away an object is making driving unsafe

The inability to distinguish the curb from the sidewalk

Difficulty navigating stairs or missing a step

Determining how much water to pour into a glass or coffee in a cup

Difficulty threading a needle

Not only does declining depth perception lead to frustration and anger,  but these patients are at a high risk for falls and accidents.  Loss of depth perception is reduced when there is loss of visual contrast.  Two healthy functioning eyes working together are required for good depth perception.  So even if you have one good eye, depth perception is decreased.  While this vision loss can’t be completely overcome there are some strategies and vision aids one can use to help compensate.

Bioptic Lenses

Make an appointment with a low vision optometrist to be evaluated for bioptic lenses.   These glasses have a miniature telescope mounted on one or both of the eyeglass lenses.  Some states allow people with low vision to drive with the use of bioptic lenses.

Lighted and Marked Stairs

Outdoor stairs can be marked with bright yellow strips of tape.  The color contrast allows one to identify and navigate steps.   If there are stairs inside the home they should be lighted or have lots of light around them.

Use of A White Cane

Training in the use of a white cane by a certified orientation and mobility instructor provides safer navigation, more mobility and increased confidence. Canadian National Institute for the Blind provides this explanation:

“The cane is used to check for objects in a person’s path, changes in the walking surface (from cement to grass, for example) and to check for dangers like steps and curbs.”  Instead of looking down all the time at one’s feet, a white cane allows one to use their vision to look ahead and around them.



Leslie Degner, RN, BSN