A new study from Columbia University found that patients with glaucomatous macular damage who have good central visual acuity can still struggle to identify faces. The research paper, published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, attributes this finding, in part, to reduced contrast sensitivity.

The investigation, conducted at a tertiary care center, included 144 eyes of 72 participants with open-angle glaucoma in one or both eyes and visual acuity of 20/40 or better in each eye. The researchers determined the presence or absence of macular damage by comparing corresponding regions of the retinal nerve fiber layer and retinal ganglion cell layer on spectral domain OCT and 10-2 visual fields (VF). The investigators determined which eye was better or worse based on the 10-2 VF mean deviation.

Regardless of the eye, the study reported a significant correlation between facial recognition and 10-2 VF mean deviation. Additionally, the 10-2 VF mean deviation remained a significant predictor of facial recognition after adjusting for glaucoma severity, contrast sensitivity, age and visual acuity.

Hirji SH, Liebmann JM, Hood DC, et al. Macular damage in glaucoma is associated with deficits in facial recognition. Am J Ophthalmol. April 30, 2020. [Epub ahead of print].