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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Relationship between visual field loss and contrast threshold elevation in glaucoma

CM Tochel1, JS Morton1, JL Jay2 and JD Morrison1*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Biomedical & Life Sciences, West Medical Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

2 Tennent Institute of Ophthalmology, Gartnavel General Hospital, 1053 Great Western, Road, Glasgow, Scotland, UK

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BMC Ophthalmology 2005, 5:22  doi:10.1186/1471-2415-5-22

Published: 13 September 2005



There is a considerable body of literature which indicates that contrast thresholds for the detection of sinusoidal grating patterns are abnormally high in glaucoma, though just how these elevations are related to the location of visual field loss remains unknown. Our aim, therefore, has been to determine the relationship between contrast threshold elevation and visual field loss in corresponding regions of the peripheral visual field in glaucoma patients.


Contrast thresholds were measured in arcuate regions of the superior, inferior, nasal and temporal visual field in response to laser interference fringes presented in the Maxwellian view. The display consisted of vertical green stationary laser interference fringes of spatial frequency 1.0 c deg-1 which appeared in a rotatable viewing area in the form of a truncated quadrant extending from 10 to 20° from fixation which was marked with a central fixation light. Results were obtained from 36 normal control subjects in order to provide a normal reference for 21 glaucoma patients and 5 OHT (ocular hypertensive) patients for whom full clinical data, including Friedmann visual fields, had been obtained.


Abnormally high contrast thresholds were identified in 20 out of 21 glaucoma patients and in 2 out of 5 OHT patients when compared with the 95% upper prediction limit for normal values from one eye of the 36 normal age-matched control subjects. Additionally, inter-ocular differences in contrast threshold were also abnormally high in 18 out of 20 glaucoma patients who had vision in both eyes compared with the 95% upper prediction limit. Correspondence between abnormally high contrast thresholds and visual field loss in the truncated quadrants was significant in 5 patients, borderline in 4 patients and absent in 9 patients.


While the glaucoma patients tested in our study invariably had abnormally high contrast thresholds in one or more of the truncated quadrants in at least one eye, reasonable correspondence with the location of the visual field loss only occurred in half the patients studied. Hence, while contrast threshold elevations are indicative of glaucomatous damage to vision, they are providing a different assessment of visual function from conventional visual field tests.