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Quality of life in patients with glaucoma assessed by 39-item National Eye Institute Visual Functioning Questionnaire (NEI VFQ-39)



The purpose of the study was to evaluate glaucoma patients’ quality of life (QoL) as measured by National Eye Institute Visual Functioning Questionnaire (NEI VFQ-39) and to examine the influence of patient characteristics and disease stage measured by visual field loss on QoL.


A prospective survey of patients with an established diagnosis of glaucoma without concomitant eye disease was conducted. Patients completed a validated German translation of the NEI VFQ-39 questionnaire. Visual field defects were graded using simplified Hodapp’s classification. VFQ-39 scores were compared between groups.


We included 60 patients, 28 of whom were classified as early, 16 as moderate, and 16 as advanced stage glaucoma. No differences were found in sex, visual acuity of the better eye, near visual acuity, treatment type, and VFQ rating for “General health” between groups. In the advanced group, VFQ-39 (p = 0.01) and VFQ-25 (p = 0.01) composite scores were significantly lower than in the early group. In addition, distance visual acuity (worse eye) was significantly worse in the advanced than in early stage patients (p = 0.04, Table 4). Patients with advanced glaucoma had significantly lower VFQ-39 subscale scores for “General vision” (p = 0.023), “Near activities” (p = 0.02), “Distance activities” (p = 0.003), “Mental health” (p = 0.008), “Driving” (p = 0.011), and “Peripheral vision” (p = 0.017) than early glaucoma patients. Patients with moderate glaucoma had significantly lower scores for “Distance activities” (p = 0.028) than early stage glaucoma patients. VFI (better eye: r = 0.65, worse eye: r = 0.5) and MD (better eye: r = 0.6, worse eye: r = 0.49) were significantly (p < 0.001) correlated with VFQ-39. Correlations of VFQ-39 with age, VFI intereye difference, distance, or near visual acuity were not significant.


Compared to patients with early glaucoma, patients with moderate stage glaucoma reported higher difficulty with distance activities (e.g. navigating an urban environment, watching television). Patients with advanced stage glaucoma reported lower VFQ-39 composite and subscale scores relevant to topics of general vision complaints, difficulties with near work and finding things, navigating urban outdoor environments, and watching television; worries and frustrations with vision difficulties; and difficulty driving and noticing objects off to the side of footpaths. Visual field indices MD and VFI were strongly correlated with QoL as assessed by VFQ-39. VA was not correlated with QoL. In patients with moderate or advanced glaucoma, QoL may be significantly impacted by glaucomatous visual field defects even when visual acuity is preserved.

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Source code for GSS 2 classification was provided by Stephen Kelly from David Crabb’s group at City, University of London, UK, and is gratefully acknowledged.

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Correspondence to Stephan Szegedi.

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Ethical approval and informed consent

The study protocol and patient consent form were approved by the ethics committee of the city of Vienna. The study was conducted in accordance with the World Medical Association’s Declaration of Helsinki (2013) and the guideline for Good Clinical Practice established by the International Council for Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (2017). All patients provided informed consent prior to inclusion in the study.

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Szegedi, S., Boltz, A., Scharinger, EM. et al. Quality of life in patients with glaucoma assessed by 39-item National Eye Institute Visual Functioning Questionnaire (NEI VFQ-39). Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol (2021).

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  • Glaucoma
  • Quality of life
  • NEI-VFQ-39
  • NEI-VFQ-25