Glare's causes, consequences, and clinical challenges after a century of ophthalmic study

Am J Ophthalmol. 2012 Apr;153(4):587-93. doi: 10.1016/j.ajo.2012.01.008.


Purpose: To provide a multidisciplinary synthesis of scientific information on disability, discomfort, dazzling, and scotomatic (photostress) glare.

Design: Perspective.

Methods: Analysis and integration of relevant historical and contemporary publications on glare in ophthalmology, illumination engineering, neurology, and other relevant disciplines.

Results: Disability glare is caused by scattered intraocular light (straylight) not useful for vision. Straylight casts a veiling luminance on the retina, reducing image contrast and impairing vision. In common environments, glare and target illumination sources have the same or similar spectra. Colored spectacle or intraocular lens filters reduce both proportionately, so they do not increase retinal image contrast or decrease disability glare. Discomfort glare is caused by situational illumination too intense or variable. Dazzling glare occurs when high illuminances are spread across the retina. Neurophysiological research is clarifying how discomfort and dazzling glare depend on different retinal photoreceptors and nociceptive brain pathways involving the trigeminal ganglion and thalamus. Photostress is caused by excessive local retinal photopigment bleaching uncommon in ordinary situations. Optical glare countermeasures are available for daytime driving but not oncoming automobile headlights at night. Filters that decrease daytime discomfort or dazzling glare also reduce nighttime mesopic and scotopic sensitivity.

Conclusions: Glare is problematic for patients and clinicians despite a century of scientific research. Advances in understanding glare have been hampered by its complex, multidisciplinary nature and limited interdisciplinary communication. We provide one pathway through the forest of glare nomenclature and mechanisms. Improved diagnostic and therapeutic methodologies await continuing progress in understanding glare.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Contrast Sensitivity / radiation effects
  • Glare*
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Retina / radiation effects
  • Scattering, Radiation*
  • Vision Disorders / etiology*
  • Vision Disorders / history
  • Vision Disorders / physiopathology