The area's first low-vision specialist has arrived and has set up shop in the Carbon-Schuylkill area.

"I'm here to provide help for people where help hasn't been available," says Dr. Jared Schneider, Tamaqua.

Schneider currently is the only low-vision specialist between Wilkes-Barre and Allentown, and is associated with Houser Newman Associates at Mahoning Valley Eye Center, 37 Medical Crossing Road, Tamaqua.

That alliance allows him to see patients at Houser Newman's additional locations in Palmerton, Nesquehoning and East Broad Street in Tamaqua, plus a facility in Lehighton. The entire area is underserved in terms of low-vision help, says Schneider.

Although not confined to older adults, low-vision problems are becoming more prevalent due to aging Baby Boomers.

Low vision is defined as a visual impairment that significantly reduces the functioning of the individual, and cannot be adequately corrected with medical, surgical, therapy, conventional eyewear or contact lenses. It is often a loss of sharpness or visual acuity, but also can be experienced as a loss of field of vision, light sensitivity, distorted vision or loss of contrast.

People with low vision are not completely blind. They simply need some assistance.

"I help them to help themselves," says Schneider, 35.

For instance, some folks need help with reading their daily mail. Others need to be set up so that they can be more self-sufficient.

"I help them pick the right equipment. They may need a trainer, or help getting around the house, such as marking the location of the stove," says Schneider, a native of Harveys Lake.

Such situations might call for the help of a vision orientation or mobility specialist, Schneider explains.

Eye conditions that commonly result in low vision include but are not limited to age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, corneal disease, and stroke. Diabetes and high blood pressure can be contributing factors, as well.

But low vision can result from causes unrelated to aging. Low vision often may occur as a result of birth defects or injury, or as a complication of disease.

"Yes, you can be born with a vision impairment," says Schneider.

In those cases, low vision is a lifetime condition.

Signs of low vision include: difficulty recognizing a familiar face, difficulty reading the print appears broken, distorted or incomplete, and difficulty seeing objects and potential hazards such as steps, curbs, walls, uneven surfaces and furniture.

Low-vision services and devices do not cure the cause of the vision problem, but rather utilize the remaining vision to its fullest potential. Low-vision doctors prescribe prescription eyewear, absorptive filters, microscopic telescopic eyewear, magnifiers, adaptive equipment, closed circuit television systems (CCTV), independent living aids, training and counsel patients.

CCTVs are very common. The electronic screen magnifiers, similar to computer screens, enlarge print and objects 20 times their normal size.

Schneider says lifestyle enhancements may go a long way toward staving off effects of macular degeneration.

"Smoking and obesity are two contributing factors," he says. "Plus eating healthier, including green, leafy vegetables, is a good idea."

Schneider says exams are typically covered by Medicare and most insurances. Equipment typically isn't covered. However, there are cases where it can be, such as with those who qualify for a program under the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services, according to vision and income guidelines.

Schneider attended Southern Adventist University where he obtained B.S. in biology. He completed his Doctor of Optometry at Pennsylvania College of Optometry.

He says he is enjoying becoming familiar with his new home of Tamaqua where he lives with his wife, Dr. Christine Gallagher, who also is associated of Houser Newman.

Schneider is an avid mountain biker with background in directing races and is looking forward to becoming involved in the local mountain biking scene.

More information about Schneider or low-vision impairment is available at (570) 386-5926.