Background: Previous studies have shown an effect of the tranquilizer lorazepam on visual perception. We explored the effects of the drug on binocular vision, visual acuity and accommodation.
Subjects and methods: Twenty-four paid healthy volunteers (13 women, 11 men) were recruited from the University of Strasbourg (mean age: 23.6 years, mean weight: 66.8 Kg). They were randomly assigned to one of two parallel groups of 12 subjects each (a placebo group and a lorazepam 0.038 mg/kg group). Visual acuity was measured for each eye separately (Snellen chart and Parinaud scale). Binocular vision was studied using the cover tests, measurement of the fusional amplitudes (with Berens prisms), and the Duane Scale Test (near point rule) measuring convergence and/or accommodation in centimeters or diopters as a function of age.
Results: Regarding vision, there was no lorazepam effect, at either 33 cm or 5 m. An esophoria was observed after the intake of lorazepam (0Delta before intake and 2.8Delta after intake, p=0.001). Both fusional convergence and fusional divergence amplitudes decreased by lorazepam, (p=0.008, and p=0.002). Lorazepam also impaired the near point of convergence but did not affect accommodation.
Conclusion: A single dose of lorazepam induces an esophoric oculomotor imbalance and impaired fusional convergence and divergence amplitudes without impairing visual acuity or accommodation.