• vision;
  • specific quality of life;
  • uncorrected refractive error;
  • eyeglasses;
  • magnifiers

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the benefit of eyeglasses and magnifiers in elderly patients with uncorrected refractive errors.

DESIGN: A single-center, randomized, prospective, controlled trial (September 2001 to August 2003).

SETTING: Los Angeles County, California.

PARTICIPANTS: One hundred thirty-one community-dwelling persons aged 65 and older who had habitual distance visual acuity of 20/32 or worse and whose distant visual acuity, near visual acuity, or both could be improved with eyeglasses, a magnifier, or both by two lines of acuity or more.

INTERVENTION: Sixty-six were randomized to receive a prescription and voucher for free eyeglasses, a magnifier, or both immediately, and 65 were randomized to receive a prescription and voucher after the 3-month follow-up visit (the control group).

MEASUREMENTS: Primary outcome was vision-specific functioning as measured using the 25-item National Eye Institute—Visual Functioning Questionnaire (NEI-VFQ). Secondary outcomes were distance and near visual acuity and overall functioning as measured using the Rosow-Breslau function questionnaire.

RESULTS: In the intention-to-treat analysis of 3-month follow-up data, participants who received the eyeglasses prescription and voucher immediately had greater improvement in NEI-VFQ composite scores than the control group (P<.01). They also had greater improvement in perceptions of their general vision (P<.01), distance visual acuity (P=.03), near visual acuity (P=.04), and mental health (P=.02).

CONCLUSION: Correction of uncorrected refractive error, one of the leading causes of visual impairment in older people, improved the vision-specific quality of life of community-dwelling older persons.