Infantile nystagmus (IN) has been reported to decrease with convergence. However, previous studies reported equivocal results regarding a corresponding improvement in acuity with near viewing. The aim of this study was to determine whether visual acuity improves with near viewing in patients with IN.
In the first experiment, visual acuities were measured using clinical test charts at standard test distances of 3 or 6 m and 40 cm and using S Charts at 3.75 m and 40 cm. In the second experiment, visual acuities were measured using a Bailey-Lovie chart at distance and a Lighthouse modified ETDRS near card held by each subject at his or her preferred working distance. S-chart acuities were obtained again at 3.75 m and 40 cm for comparison. Horizontal eye movements were recorded using infrared limbal reflection for 20 of the 34 subjects in the first experiment and for all 20 subjects in the second experiment.
The S-chart acuities measured at distance and near were almost all within 0.1 logMAR (logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution) in experiments 1 and 2. Clinically measured acuity averaged nearly one line better at 40 cm than at distance in experiment 1, but the mean difference between near acuity using the ETDRS card and distance acuity using the Bailey-Lovie chart was less than one letter in experiment 2. No consistent relationship existed between the changes in visual acuity with viewing distance and the subject's eye movements.
Despite a reduction of nystagmus at near distances in many patients with IN, the visual acuity at near does not improve significantly. These results imply that visual acuity in patients with IN is determined primarily by sensory limitations rather than by the moment-by-moment characteristics of these patients' eye movements.