A comprehensive assessment of visual impairment in a population of older Americans: The SEE Study

Gary S. Rubin, Sheila K. West, Beatriz Muñoz, Karen Bandeen-Roche, Scott Zeger, Oliver Schein, Linda P. Fried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

298 Scopus citations


Purpose. The Salisbury Eye Evaluation Project is a longitudinal study of risk factors for age-related eye diseases and the impact of eye disease and visual impairment on physical disability. In this article, the authors report the prevalence of visual impairment in their population and explore the relations among the various measures of visual function. Methods. A population-based sample of 2520 residents of Salisbury, Maryland, between the ages of 65 and 84 years were enrolled in the study. Twenty-six percent of participants were black. Vision tests included best-corrected Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study acuity, Pelli-Robson contrast sensitivity with and without glare, Randot stereoacuity, and 60°Humphrey visual fields. Results. Visual function decreased linearly with age for the acuity, contrast sensitivity, glare, and visual field tests. Stereoacuity remained constant into the mid-70s and declined at an accelerating rate thereafter. Black participants had lower contrast sensitivity, reduced stereoacuity, and worse visual fields, at all ages compared to white participants; however, white participants were more sensitive to glare. The overall prevalence of visual acuity impairment in blacks was 5.6% versus 3.0% for whites, rising the traditional United States definition (worse than 20/40 to better titan 20/200 and 3.3% for blacks versus 1.6% for whites, using the World Health Organization definition (worse than 20/60 to 20/400). Acuity was correlated moderately with contrast sensitivity, stereoacuity, and visual fields (Spearman rho = 0.50, 0.35, and 0.34, respectively). The correlation between acuity and glare sensitivity was low (rho = 0.12). Conclusions. Many aspects of visual function, not just acuity, decline with age. Black participants have more visual impairment than do white participants for all tests except glare sensitivity. The prevalence of visual acuity impairment in the Salisbury Eye Evaluation population is lower than that reported by other studies rising similar test procedures. Low-to-moderate correlations among vision test scores suggest that several different dimensions of visual function are being assessed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-568
Number of pages12
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997


  • aging
  • contrast sensitivity
  • elderly
  • glare sensitivity
  • stereoacuity
  • visual acuity
  • visual fields
  • visual impairment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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