The effect of relative distance enlargement on visual acuity in the visually impaired

James S. Wolffsohn, Frank Eperjesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Prescribing magnification is typically based on distance or near visual acuity. this presumes a constant minimum angle of visual resolution with working distance and therefore enlargement of an object moved to a shorter working distance (relative distance enlargement). this study examines this premise in a visually impaired population. methods: distance letter visual acuity was measured prospectively for 380 low vision patients (distance visual acuity between 0.3 and 2.1 logmar) over the age of 57 years, along with near word visual acuity at an appropriate distance for near lens additions from +4 d to +20 D. demographic information, the disease causing low vision, contrast sensitivity, visual field and psychological status were also recorded. results: distance letter acuity was significantly related to (r = 0.84) but on average 0.1 ± 0.2 logmar better (1 ± 2 lines on a logmar chart) than near word acuity at 25 cm with a +4 d lens addition. in 39. 8 per cent of patients, near word acuity was more than 0.1 logmar worse than distance letter acuity. in 11.0 per cent of subjects, near visual acuity was more than 0.1 logmar better than distance letter acuity. the group with near word acuity worse than distance letter acuity also had lower contrast sensitivity. the group with near word acuity better than distance letter acuity was less likely to have age-Related macular degeneration. smaller print size could be read by reducing working distance (achieved by using higher near lens additions) in 86. 1 per cent, although not by as much as predicted by geometric progression in 14. 5 per cent. discussion: although distance letter and near word acuity are highly related, they are on average 1 logmar line different and this varies significantly between individuals. near word acuity did not increase linearly with relative distance enlargement in approximately one in seven visually impaired, suggesting that the measurement of visual resolution over a range of working distances will assist appropriate prescribing of magnification aids.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-102
Number of pages6
JournalClinical and Experimental Optometry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2005


  • age-related macular degeneration
  • low vision
  • proximal magnification
  • relative distance enlargement
  • visual acuity
  • visual impairment
  • working distance


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