Visual contrast sensitivity, or VCS, is the ability to distinguish between an object and its background or detect differences between similar shades of light and dark.
As you can imagine, visual contrast sensitivity is important for a number of reasons, especially where there are visual disruptions that reduce the contrast between objects and their background. Symptoms of reduced contrast sensitivity are most prevalent in conditions of low light, fog, or reflective glare; most people first notice symptoms of VCS while driving at dusk or at night.
Symptoms Of Reduced Contrast Sensitivity
Symptoms of reduced contrast sensitivity can not only inconvenience you, but if not addressed, can quickly become dangerous to you and others. A decrease in contrast sensitivity can lead to a loss of spatial awareness, mobility, and can increase the risk of accidents.
Every day symptoms of low or reduced contrast sensitivity include:
- Problems driving in the rain or at night
- Difficulty pouring coffee into a dark mug
- Difficulty walking down steps
- Focusing on reading instructions
- Eyes easily tiring while reading or watching television
Symptoms of low or reduced contrast are not an indication of poor or weakening visual acuity. It is possible to have 20/20 vision while also experiencing vision or health conditions that reduce your ability to distinguish between an object and its background.
While commonly associated with age, reduced contrast sensitivity could also be an indication of a more serious health issues, including:
- Optic Nerve Degeneration
- Diabetic Retinopathy
Testing for Contrast Sensitivity
It’s important to note that testing for visual contrast sensitivity is not typically included in a routine eye exam. If tested, optometrists test for contrast sensitivity using the Pelli Robson contrast sensitivity chart and only after specific complaints or concerns expressed by you, as the patient.
Treating Low Contrast Sensitivity
Results from the Pelli Robson contrast sensitivity test will determine if your level of contrast sensitivity is a result of a refractive error or if the issue that may need to be corrected with special glasses or in serious cases, surgery.
When opting to address issues of reduced visual contrast sensitivity with eye wear, your optometrist will often suggest or prescribe a corrective lens that has a yellow filter to better support your ability to detect differences in contrast.
Most optometrists will also recommend anti-reflective coating for prescription lenses. Many people report improved vision in low-light conditions while wearing lenses treated with anti-reflective coating.
A New Way to Test Contrast Sensitivity
With enhancements in optical technology, testing for contrast sensitivity can be done at home using your smartphone! With the EyeQue Insight, you are empowered to track your vision at home anytime with three tests: visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and color blindness. All you need is the device, free app download (myEyeQueVA), and your iOS or Android smartphone