The (lack of) relation between straylight and visual acuity. Two domains of the point-spread-function

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PURPOSE: The effect of cataract and other media opacities on functional vision is typically assessed clinically using visual acuity. In both clinical and basic research, straylight (the functional result of light scattering in the eye) is commonly measured. The purpose of the present study was to determine the link between these two measures: is visual acuity in cataract and other media opacities related to straylight?

METHODS: Interdependence between acuity and straylight is addressed from three different points of view: (1) Methodological: can acuity differences affect the measurement value of straylight, and vice versa? (2) Basic optics: does the optical process of light scattering in the human eye affect both straylight and visual acuity? (3) Statistical: how strongly are acuity and straylight correlated in the practice of important clinical conditions? Experimental and theoretical aspects will be considered, with a focus on normal ageing and cataract formation.

RESULTS: (1) Methodological: testing potential effects of acuity, artificially manipulated with positive trial lenses, showed no effect on measured straylight values. Since light scattering in the eye involves a low percentage of the light and has large angular spreading, contrast reduction due to straylight is limited, resulting in virtually absent acuity effects. (2) Basic optics: light scattering from the human donor eye lens is found to have virtually no effect in the centre of the point-spread-function, also for cataractous lenses, resulting in virtually absent acuity effects. (3) Statistical: literature data on straylight and visual acuity show a weak correlation for the important groups of normal ageing and cataract populations.

CONCLUSIONS: The point-spread-function of the normal ageing and cataractous human eye is built upon two rather independent basic parts. Aberrations control the central peak. Light scattering controls the periphery from about 1° onwards. The way acuity and straylight are measured ensures no confounding between them. Statistically within the normal ageing and cataract populations, visual acuity and straylight vary quite independently from each other. Visual acuity losses with cataract and other media opacities are not due to straylight, but caused by aberrations and micro-aberrations. Straylight defines disability glare, and causes symptoms of glare, haloes, hazy vision etc. Overall, visual acuity and straylight are rather independent aspects of quality of vision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-341
JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Journal Article

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