Visit our 2 convenient locations!

5900 Heckert Rd.
P.O. Box 324
Bakerstown, PA 15007
724-443-6767 Phone
724-443-6730 Fax

4001 Freeport Rd.
Natrona Heights, PA 15065
724-226-0444 Phone
724-226-0744 Fax


Low Vision Awareness

February is national age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and low vision awareness month. AMD is the leading cause of low vision and blindness in Americans age 60 years and older and affects 1.6 million Americans. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, the rates of AMD are expected to reach “epidemic proportions”. AMD is a disease that blurs the sharp, central vision you need for straight-ahead activities and tasks such as reading and driving. The disease affects the macula; the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail.

The most common causes of low vision in the USA are macular degeneration, followed by glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. For those with low vision, the quality of their vision interferes with their ability to perform everyday activities. Tasks such as reading the mail or a book are challenging. Other obstacles include activities such as shopping, cooking, writing, driving and even the ability to enjoy a movie or television. Besides those difficulties, low vision results in anxiety and frustration when people lose their vision as well as visual independence.

What are the risk factors?

  • Age: Affects more than 2 million Americans over 50 years old. The prevalence of age-related macular degeneration in the USA is around 6% when 65 and almost 20% when 75 years old.
  • Genetics: Family history (many genes being studied)
  • Smoking: Increases your risk for progression
  • Other eye conditions: hyperopia and light-colored iris
  • Systemic diseases associated: hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular disease
  • Gender: women are more likely to be affected than men
  • Race: Caucasian
  • UV light: no significant proven risk but caution and sunglasses advised.

Low Vision care is a unique method of care because it considers your personal life and favorite activities, not only the extent of your visual difficulties. Low Vision specialists work closely with each patient to determine the best visual aids and devices to improve their quality of life.

Dr. Bissell is a low vision specialist and has undergone extensive training at the International Academy of Low Vision Specialists (IALVS). People with low vision have a diminished ability to engage in their daily tasks, whether around the house or elsewhere. The goal in treating patients with low vision is to help them remain independent and do the things they love and enjoy through the use of customized vision aids and devices.

Various types of advanced technology include microscope and telescope lenses that improve upon the individual’s prescription lenses and magnify them far beyond the capability of standard lenses. These can be used in combination with other technologies to expand a patient’s environment for those living with low vision caused by eye diseases.

Dr. Bissell states, “It is one of the most rewarding experiences to watch someone regain the ability to read a book, watch TV or walk safely down a sidewalk without fear of injury.” Low Vision appointments last longer than regular appointments due to the additional time needed to test various telescopic prescription lenses. The glasses are not covered by insurance with costs starting at $500. But it’s a small price to pay for independence.

Live life to the fullest. To learn more about low vision services, call our office at 724-443-6767 or 724-226-0444.

About Bissell Eye Care: John D. Bissell, OD owns and operates Bissell Eye Care servicing Northern Pittsburgh and Alle-Kiski Valley regions. With two locations to treat patients, we offer evening and Saturday appointments. Bissell Eye Care provides comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family beginning as early as 6 months, ocular disease detection and treatment, eyeglasses, sunglasses, activewear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. We accept most types of vision and health insurance plans. For more information, visit or call our Bakerstown Office at 724-443-6767 or Natrona Heights office at 724-226-0444.