PURPOSE: To examine the relationship of visual field impairment to vision-specific health-related quality of life and symptoms in a large cohort (N=345) of African Americans and Whites of non-Hispanic origin diagnosed with glaucoma. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Participants consisted of persons > or =55 years of age recruited from university-affiliated ophthalmology and optometry practices in Birmingham, AL who had been diagnosed with glaucoma. Medical records were abstracted to collect information on demographics, visual acuity, and visual fields. A telephone survey was conducted to obtain information on vision-specific health-related quality of life [National Eye Institute Visual Function Questionnaire-25 (NEI VFQ-25)], glaucoma symptoms [Glaucoma Symptom Scale (GSS)], and cognitive status (Short Portable Mental Status Questionnaire). Visual fields were used to compute a visual field defect score for each eye based on the Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study (AGIS) scoring system. RESULTS: Mean NEI VFQ-25 subscale scores ranged from the 50s to 80s. Scores for African Americans and Whites did not differ except for the general health and ocular pain subscales for which African Americans had slightly higher scores. For both African Americans and Whites, as the AGIS score became worse in the better and/or worse eye, there was a decrease in VFQ subscale score for most VFQ subscales including general vision, distance vision, near vision, social functioning, color vision, and peripheral vision (P<0.05). AGIS scores were unrelated to the GSS subscales in African Americans; for Whites, the visual but not the nonvisual subscale was related to AGIS score. CONCLUSIONS: Scores on most subscales of the NEI VFQ-25 and the 2 subscales of the GSS are highly similar in African Americans and Whites of non-Hispanic origin who have been diagnosed with glaucoma. In addition, for both African Americans and Whites, the VFQ subscales for the most part demonstrated good construct validity with respect to the extent of visual field impairment. Results imply that the NEI VFQ-25 and the GSS are appropriate instruments for studying the personal burden of glaucoma in studies whose samples involve both African American and White adults.