Does the World Health Organization criterion adequately define glaucoma blindness?

P. Mokhles*, J. S. A. G. Schouten, H. J. M. Beckers, C. A. B. Webers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: Blindness in glaucoma is difficult to assess with merely the use of the current World Health Organization (WHO) definition (a visual field restricted to 10 degrees in a radius around central fixation), as this criterion does not cover other types of visual field loss that are encountered in clinical practice and also depict blindness. In this study, a 5-point ordinal scale was developed for the assessment of common visual field defect patterns, with the purpose of comparing blindness as outcome to the findings with the WHO criterion when applied to the same visual fields. The scores with the two methods were compared between two ophthalmologists. In addition, the variability between these assessors in assessing the different visual field types was determined.

Methods: Two glaucoma specialists randomly assessed a sample of 423 visual fields from 77 glaucoma patients, stripped of all indices and masked for all patient variables. They applied the WHO criterion and a 5-point ordinal scale to all visual fields for the probability of blindness.

Results: The WHO criterion was mostly found applicable and in good agreement for both assessors to visual fields depicting central island of vision or a temporal crescent. The percentage of blindness scores was higher when using the ordinal scale, 21.7% and 19.6% for assessors A and B, respectively, versus 14.4% and 11.3% for the WHO criterion. However, Kappa was lower, 0.71 versus 0.78 for WHO.

Conclusions: The WHO criterion is strictly applied and shows good agreement between assessors; however, blindness does not always fit this criterion. More visual fields are labeled as blind when a less stringent criterion is used, but this leads to more interobserver variability. A new criterion that describes the extent, location, and depth of visual field defects together with their consequence for the patient's quality of life is needed for the classification of glaucoma blindness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-480
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Ophthalmology
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • glaucoma
  • blindness
  • visual fields
  • World Health Organization
  • VIEW

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