Why is Visual Contrast Sensitivity Important?

man user


man user

EyeQue Team

man user

August 14, 2018

Visual contrast sensitivity, or VCS, is the ability to distinguish between an object and its background or detect differences between similar shades of light and dark. It is important for a number of reasons. Symptoms are most prevalent in conditions of low light, fog, or reflective glare. It is important to note that symptoms are most noticeable while driving at dusk or at night.

Common Symptoms

Symptoms of this condition can not only inconvenient, but it can also quickly become dangerous to you and others. A decrease in contrast sensitivity can lead to a loss of spatial awareness, mobility, and can increase the risk of accidents.

Everyday examples include:

  • Problems driving in the rain or at night
  • Difficulty pouring coffee into a dark mug
  • Difficulty walking down steps
  • Focusing on reading instructions
  • Eyes easily tiring while reading or watching television

This condition is not a direct indication of poor or weakening visual acuity. It is possible to have 20/20 vision while also experiencing vision or health conditions that reduce your ability to distinguish between an object and its background.

While commonly associated with age, this could also be an indication of more serious health issues, including:

  • Glaucoma
  • AMD
  • Cataracts
  • Optic Nerve Degeneration
  • Diabetic Retinopathy


Routine eye exams do not typically include contrast sensitivity tests. If tested, optometrists test for contrast sensitivity using the Pelli Robson contrast sensitivity chart and only after specific complaints or concerns expressed by you, as the patient.


Results from the Pelli Robson contrast sensitivity test will determine if your level of contrast sensitivity is a result of a refractive error or if the issue may need to be corrected with special glasses or in serious cases, surgery.

When opting to address issues of reduced visual contrast sensitivity with eyewear, your optometrist will suggest or prescribe a corrective lens that has a yellow filter to better support your ability to detect differences in contrast.

Most optometrists will also recommend anti-reflective coating for prescription lenses. Many people report improved vision in low-light conditions while wearing lenses treated with an anti-reflective coating.

A New Way to Test

Testing can be done at home using your smartphone! With the EyeQue Insight, you are empowered to track your vision at home anytime with three tests: visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, and color blindness. All you need is the device, free app download (Insight), and your iOS or Android smartphone

Save Time, Save Money, See Better

The EyeQue Vision Monitoring Kit combines two at-home vision test solutions. Test your refractive error with VisionCheck, and screen for distance, color, and contrast vision with the Insight. A pupillary distance tool, Bluetooth remote, and a soft-shell protective case are included.

Buy Now

Sign Up for the EyeQue Newsletter

Receive 10% off plus exclusive deals and tips.