A person getting a manicure and the color of the nails changes coloring in a moving image.

Nail Care with Vision Loss

In the three-and-a-half years that I’ve been working with people who have low vision from macular degeneration, I’ve gotten a lot of questions. There’s one that usually starts with, “I know in the scheme of things it’s not important, but…” and continues on to express concerns about not being able to do personal grooming now or in the future because of vision problems. I reassure them that if they are concerned, it IS important. Our self-esteem is partially tied to how we look at ourselves, and how we want to appear to others.

Types of personal grooming tasks

Grooming tasks include:

  • Combing and styling hair
  • Shaping eyebrows
  • Putting on makeup
  • Removing unwanted facial hair
  • Keeping fingernails healthy and well groomed
  • Removing unwanted underarm and leg hair
  • Cutting toenails

Low vision products

Before we go on, I am not recommending any specific products, I’m just letting you know what you might look for if you are interested. You can find these products at drug and department stores as well as online. When I refer to online, the best resources I've found for products like these are Amazon.com, MaxiAids.com, and RehabMart.com. There are others, of course. Do you have a favorite source of low vision products? Let us know!

When I use ' ' around a word or words, those are words you can use for searches if you’re interested in knowing more about something.

Let someone else do it

I think that the easiest solution to some of these is to let someone else do it. It’s easy to find places that do manicures and pedicures. If you can’t or it’s not safe to do your own toenails, check with a podiatrist, especially if you are diabetic.

Having your hair cut and styled is another service easy to find. Many people find a low-maintenance hairstyle is the best. Some salons or nail shops will also take care of your eyebrows.

Do it yourself

There are some of these tasks that you may be able to continue to do yourself. They all require adequate lighting in the room and also a light on the task. Some require specialized products. Some require specific techniques to use the vision that you have.

Consult vision rehabilitation

I’ve found that people benefit from training for grooming and other skills of daily living through vision rehabilitation. A Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist (CVRT) or an Occupational Therapist (OT) will assess your needs and help you learn to do grooming tasks with the vision that you have, with the right techniques, and the required products. If you are interested, you might ask your eye specialist about vision rehabilitation available to you.

There are too many grooming tasks to cover in one article. For fingernails and toenails, there are products that may help you that you may not know about.

Fingernail care with vision loss

Many people have a regular manicure of their fingernails and a pedicure of their toenails which may be the best option for some of you. If you wish to do your own, I’ve had people tell me that they can do the tasks of keeping them clean and filed as they have always done.

Manicures with vision loss

There are products that help cut down on the mess that can happen when you can’t quite see what you are doing. There are YouTube videos for some of these to show you how to use them if you’re interested. Here are a few:

  • 'Nail polish pens' have the polish in a sealed tube so there’s no chance of it spilling. There’s a brush at the end that helps to control the application. With many of them, you can control the amount of polish that comes out. They aren’t refillable.
  • ‘Nail cuticle oil pens’ have the nail oil in them and are refillable. You can also buy empty nail oil pens that you can fill yourself. You’ll need an eyedropper to do that which comes with some of the products.
  • ‘Nail corrector pens’ that are like felt-tipped markers. They are filled with fingernail polish remover and are refillable.  You’ll need an eyedropper to do that and some come with one.

Toenail care with vision loss

As we age, our toenails get thicker and harder for us to cut. They can also develop a fungus infection which in some people can be the cause of thick toenails.

If you are a diabetic, it’s best not to do your own so as to not cut yourself. Most podiatrists will do the clipping and filing on a regular basis if you are diabetic or if they feel it is not safe for you to cut them yourself because of the thickness or your inability to reach them. I recommend that you first check with your insurance company to make sure they will cover this service.

Clipping your own toenailsIf you want to clip your own and you can reach them, there are features in clippers that can help. Before you buy, I recommend that you read the reviews where they’re sold online even if you choose to buy them in a store near you.  Here are individual features you might look for:Wide opening for thick nailsAttached magnifiers.Built-in lights.Put these features together and you might search for ‘toenail clippers magnifier light.’ Yes, there are products that have all three available online. These clippers may also help with fingernails. There are toenail clippers with long handles (sometimes called ‘extended reach’) to help a person reach them, but I was unable to find any that also have a wide opening, a magnifier, and a light.Some of these products are NOT returnable because of hygiene issues. I recommend that you check that out before you buy them.To be continuedIf you are a diabetic, please make sure to consult a podiatrist and check your toes regularly as recommended by your medical doctor and podiatrist. We’ll continue to talk about grooming in future pages where I will suggest ways to get rid of unwanted hair and apply makeup.

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