Harvard Men's Health Watch

In the journals: Home vision not as sharp as in doctor's office

The tests you get in the doctor's office to assess your aging eyesight may provide an unrealistic view of how well you actually see at home, according to a study in JAMA Ophthalmology. The likely culprit is inadequate lighting in the home, which is easy to fix.

Over a period of four years, vision researchers tested the eyesight of 175 people age 55 to 90 at a vision clinic and also at home. Most of the study participants had glaucoma, in which excess pressure in the eyeball can damage the nerves that connect the eyes to the brain. By three different measures, vision was consistently better in the clinic than at home:

  • the number of lines on an eye chart that people with glaucoma could make out.

  • near visual acuity, or the ability to see details on an object within an arm's length away.

  • contrast sensitivity, or the ability to distinguish objects from their background.

The researchers also found that the lighting in study participants' homes was significantly dimmer than in the doctor's office, helping to explain the mismatch in test results. Impaired vision at home is a health hazard because it raises the risk of injury.

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