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Professor Konrad Pesudovs with optometry student Rebecca MacAllan and the Flinders Glare Test
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By Helen Carter
Journalist

 

A new test to fill a gap in routine testing for vision loss and glare sensitivity caused by cataract is being developed by Flinders University optometry researchers.

The Flinders Glare Test measures contrast sensitivity and glare loss, helping to quantify patient symptoms and record visual impairment so earlier surgical intervention can be sought if necessary.

Instead of high-contrast black letters on a white background, the test uses bright lights and letters of declining contrast to demonstrate glare problems from which cataract patients suffer.

The researchers hope that glare testing will become standard in the assessment and referral of cataract patients, and that the Flinders Glare Test will become part of routine testing.

They said glare loss did not correlate well with visual acuity and patients with early cataract may complain of poor quality vision due to glare yet still retain good visual acuity.

Head of Optometry at Flinders University, Professor Konrad Pesudovs, said the test aimed to provide a more comprehensive test for routine eye examinations.

‘We are looking to expand trials to show that the Flinders Glare Test can be a better method of monitoring the progression of visual disability than the usual routine testing, which does not represent everyday visual requirements,’ Professor Pesudovs said in a media release.

‘These new tests will help to better define vision decline in early-stage cataract patients and potentially set better timelines for surgery and other treatment.’

Optometry South Australia board member and associate lecturer at Flinders University Optometry and Vision Science, Ben Hamlyn, said the test was simple to use and allowed more information about the contribution of cataract to the patient’s visual disability.

Rebekah Hopps, final-year Masters student in the research team, said the test was based on the Pelli-Robson Contrast Sensitivity Chart and used bright LED lights in a strip either side of the chart to provide a standardised glare source.

Fifth-year students in the team are Blessings Chikandah, Jose Estevez, Alice Hall, Tracy Malmo, Rebecca MacAllan, Hayley McDonald, Pamela Nicholls and Tom Sliwa.

About 12 months of work had been required before the test was ready to be used. Most of this time was used to research the deficiencies of current glare tests and assess how it could resolve some of these shortcomings.

The researchers needed to find a glare source that would satisfy the criteria they required and develop a framework for the test. They also developed a testing method justified in current literature.

The team is testing people within the normal population to determine normal values for the test and will compare those values with results from cataract patients.

‘Pilot data suggest substantial glare loss is measurable for patients with cataract but further testing across a large sample must be conducted,’ the team said.

‘It is hoped that this will provide a standardised test that allows patient symptoms of glare disability to be quantified and recorded. This will allow the level of visual disability that patients with early cataract and good visual acuity complain of to be measured.’

The test may also be used for other pathologies known to affect glare sensitivity, including glaucoma and macular degeneration.

The study is ongoing at Flinders Vision Clinic and once trials are finished, the test will be available for purchase by optometric practices.

Researchers are seeking participants to assess the Flinders Glare Test and optometrists in Adelaide can refer patients to flindersglaretest@gmail.com.

Initially patients aged from 18 to 60 years with normal vision are needed but in 2016 patients with cataracts of varying morphology and severity will be required, especially those with good visual acuity and early cataract.

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