Flicker sensitivities were measured for more than 100 people age 60 and older with stimulus-conditions originally designed to obtain estimates of preretinal absorption by the lens and macular pigment. Flicker sensitivities were measured on two chromatic backgrounds: a 1000-td, 480-nm background and a 5800-td, Wratten 33 background (approximately metameric with 633 nm). Testing sessions were administered at 18-month intervals across a 3-yr period. No subject tested had a history of glaucoma or ocular hypertension at the time of entry into the study. For ten subjects, however, flicker sensitivity was sometimes reduced by more than 2.0 log units from the mean norm for at least one of the two backgrounds. For most other subjects, flicker sensitivities were within 0.5 log units of the mean norms. On retrospective analysis, the profound reductions of flicker sensitivity (PRFS) were associated significantly with (a) advanced age (perhaps especially when combined with relatively high intraocular pressure), and (b) the use of cardiovascular medications. The PRFS probably were associated with (c) female sex, and (d) large intraocular pressure fluctuations. In addition, the majority of subjects with PRFS were found to have evidence of glaucomatous cupping or field loss. These results suggest that PRFS result from glaucoma or share etiologies with low-tension glaucoma. The use of cardiovascular medications suggested that PRFS could depend on retinal dysfunction rather than on optic nerve compromise alone. Predicted results from two additional subject populations support this possibility. For young healthy subjects, flicker threshold vs illuminance curves attained very steep slopes for sufficiently short wavelength tests on sufficiently extreme long wavelength backgrounds (655 nm, 50,000 td); the steep slopes coincided with the breakdown of effective M-cone isolation. Reductions of flicker sensitivity on the 5800-td Wratten 33 background depended correspondingly on test wavelength for subjects with well-documented low-tension glaucoma.
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