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Trans Am Ophthalmol Soc. 1984;82:792-826.

The effect of glaucoma on central visual function.


Glaucoma has traditionally been thought to affect peripheral visual function in its early stages and to spare central visual function until late in the disease process. The basis for this assumption has been the reliance on Goldmann-type perimetry, a rather sensitive method for assessing the peripheral visual function, and on Snellen-type visual acuity measurements, a rather insensitive method of assessing central visual function. This belief has persisted despite frequent complaints from patients with glaucoma that their central vision is disturbed. Over the past two decades, several investigations of central visual functions and their anatomic substrate have challenged this assumption. Histologic studies of the nerve fiber layer in eyes with glaucoma suggest that the number of ganglion cells subserving macular function is decreased even in early stages of the disease. In addition, afferent pupillary defects (a gross measurement of macular nerve fiber function) may also be present in eyes with early glaucoma. Several studies have demonstrated that color perception (largely mediated by the fovea) is defective in glaucoma. Furthermore, defects in color perception may even precede the development of visual field abnormalities. Seventy-eight percent of patients with early glaucomatous visual field defects were found to have a defect in color perception when tested with a desaturated D-15 color panel that tests only the central 1.5 degrees. In addition, both chromatic and achromatic foveal perception channels are defective in eyes with glaucoma and even in some eyes of those with suspected glaucoma. Contrast sensitivity has become recognized as an important component of visual function. Partial loss of contrast sensitivity may cause a degradation in the quality of perception even though the Snellen visual acuity remains normal. Although contrast sensitivity is not entirely a macular function, it has been shown that as little as 3 degrees of disturbance of the macula (eg, with macular degeneration or with an artificial central scotoma) will reduce the contrast sensitivity, suggesting that this modality is indeed mediated to a significant extent by this portion of the retina. Spatial contrast sensitivity appears to be reduced in patients with glaucoma. However, because of overlap and lack of a sharp cutoff measurement, present testing procedures fail to allow a clear distinction between the glaucomatous and normal populations. Although reduced temporal contrast sensitivity has been demonstrated in glaucomatous eyes by others, I undertook a systematic investigation of this function in a large group of patients with glaucoma and with suspected glaucoma.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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