Pupillary Responses to High-Irradiance Blue Light Correlate with Glaucoma Severity

Ophthalmology. 2015 Sep;122(9):1777-85. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2015.06.002.


Purpose: To evaluate whether a chromatic pupillometry test can be used to detect impaired function of intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells (ipRGCs) in patients with primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and to determine if pupillary responses correlate with optic nerve damage and visual loss.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Participants: One hundred sixty-one healthy controls recruited from a community polyclinic (55 men; 151 ethnic Chinese) and 40 POAG patients recruited from a glaucoma clinic (22 men; 35 ethnic Chinese) 50 years of age or older.

Methods: Subjects underwent monocular exposure to narrowband blue light (469 nm) or red light (631 nm) using a modified Ganzfeld dome. Each light stimulus was increased gradually over 2 minutes to activate sequentially the rods, cones, and ipRGCs that mediate the pupillary light reflex. Pupil diameter was recorded using an infrared pupillography system.

Main outcome measures: Pupillary responses to blue light and red light were compared between control subjects and those with POAG by constructing dose-response curves across a wide range of corneal irradiances (7-14 log photons/cm(2) per second). In patients with POAG, pupillary responses were evaluated relative to standard automated perimetry testing (Humphrey Visual Field [HVF]; Carl Zeiss Meditec, Dublin, CA) and scanning laser ophthalmoscopy parameters (Heidelberg Retinal Tomography [HRT]; Heidelberg Engineering, Heidelberg, Germany).

Results: The pupillary light reflex was reduced in patients with POAG only at higher irradiance levels, corresponding to the range of activation of ipRGCs. Pupillary responses to high-irradiance blue light associated more strongly with disease severity compared with responses to red light, with a significant linear correlation observed between pupil diameter and HVF mean deviation (r = -0.44; P = 0.005) as well as HRT linear cup-to-disc ratio (r = 0.61; P < 0.001) and several other optic nerve head parameters.

Conclusions: In glaucomatous eyes, reduced pupillary responses to high-irradiance blue light were associated with greater visual field loss and optic disc cupping. In POAG, a short chromatic pupillometry test that evaluates the function of ipRGCs can be used to estimate the degree of damage to retinal ganglion cells that mediate image-forming vision. This approach could prove useful in detecting glaucoma.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Asians
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / classification
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Intraocular Pressure / physiology
  • Light*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ophthalmoscopy
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Pupil Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Reflex, Pupillary / radiation effects*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology*
  • Tonometry, Ocular
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Visual Acuity / physiology
  • Visual Field Tests
  • Visual Fields / physiology