Visual acuity and the ability of the visually impaired to read medication instructions

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Background/Aims:Although medical information is often communicated in writing, little attention is given as to whether patients can read it—for example, the miniscule writing on the side of the medication bottles (equivalent to 6/6 reduced Snellen). The authors wished to determine a distance visual acuity threshold, using routine assessments of visual acuity (VA), beyond which patients are unable to read their instructions.Methods:180 patients, subgrouped according to the best line of Snellen acuity (from 6/9 to 6/60) achieved in either eye were recruited. Subjects were asked to read the printed manufacturer’s instructions on the side of the drops box without magnification.Results:Those subjects with best corrected VA of lower than or equal to 6/24 showed a significantly diminished ability to read the instructions on their eye drops bottles (p<0.001 for each comparison). When this group selected a font size of their choosing, the mode for preferred Arial font sizes were 16 for the 6/24 group, 18 for 6/36, and 22 for 6/60.Conclusion:This study documents the inability of patients with visual impairment to read the instructions on their bottle of eye drops. There is evidence of a distance VA threshold effect such that, although the majority of patients with 6/18 VA are able to read their instructions, patients whose VA is worse cannot. This latter group would benefit from a larger font size, a size of Arial 22 being sufficient. We recommend that all printed information for patients with visual acuities between 6/24 and 6/60 be printed in font Arial 22 or equivalent.

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