Open Access Open Badges Research article

Relations of low contrast visual acuity, quality of life and multiple sclerosis functional composite: a cross-sectional analysis

Johann Schinzel1, Hanna Zimmermann1, Friedemann Paul12, Klemens Ruprecht23, Katrin Hahn3, Alexander U Brandt1 and Jan Dörr12*

Author Affiliations

1 NeuroCure Clinical Research Center, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Charitéplatz 1, 10117 Berlin, Germany

2 Clinical and Experimental Multiple Sclerosis Research Center, Department of Neurology, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany

3 Department of Neurology, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany

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BMC Neurology 2014, 14:31  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-14-31

Published: 20 February 2014



Although common and often disabling in multiple sclerosis (MS), visual dysfunction is currently not adequately accounted for in both clinical routine and MS trials. Sloan low contrast letter acuity (SLCLA) is a standardised chart-based measure of visual function particular at low contrast and has been suggested as additional visual component to the Multiple Sclerosis Functional Composite (MSFC). Here, we evaluate the relations between SLCLA, retinal integrity, MSFC, and quality of life (QoL) in MS patients.


Cross-sectional analysis of retinal nerve fibre layer (RNFL) thickness, MSFC, SLCLA (2.5% and 1.25% contrast levels), visual evoked potentials, and QoL (Short Form (SF) 36, National Eye Institute Visual Functioning Questionnaire (NEIVFQ)) using baseline data of 92 MS patients from an ongoing prospective longitudinal trial. Relations between RNFL thickness or P100 latency and SLCLA were analysed using generalised estimating equations (GEE) accounting for intra-individual inter-eye dependencies and corrected for age, gender, and history of optic neuritis. Pearson’s correlations were used to assess relations between SLCLA, MSFC, and QoL.


SLCLA reflected RNFL thickness (p = 0.021) and P100 latency (p = 0.004) and predicted vision-related QoL, reflected by the NEIVFQ39 subscores “general vision” and “near activities” (p < 0.008 for both). SLCLA did not predict general QoL reflected by SF36. Implementing SLCLA into MSFC, thus creating a four-dimensional MSFC4, captured aspects of disability reflected by the NEIVFQ39 subscores “general vision” (r = 0.42, p < 0.0001) and “near activity” (r = 0.3, p = 0.014) which were not captured by standard MSFC3.


SLCLA at 2.5% and 1.25% contrast levels correlates with retinal morphology and P100 latency and predicts some aspects of vision-related QoL in MS. More importantly, using a prospective cross-sectional approach we provide evidence that extending the MSFC by SLCLA as an additional visual component increases the performance of MSFC to capture MS-related disability. Longitudinal data on the relation between SLCLA, MSFC, and QoL will be available in the near future.

Multiple sclerosis; Low contrast visual acuity; Sloan low contrast letter acuity; Multiple sclerosis functional composite; Quality of life; Retinal nerve fibre layer thickness