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ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: The aim of the present study was to assess the prevalence of refractive errors and visual impairment among schoolchildren in rural central Ethiopia. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted from November 2010 to January 2011 among 5,470 schoolchildren from 14 schools, of whom 4,238 (aged 7-18 years) were screened for refractive errors. In all participants, uncorrected vision and best corrected visual acuity were determined and those with a visual acuity of 6/12 or worse, underwent a complete ophthalmic examination to determine the cause of visual impairment. Myopia was defined as a spherical equivalent of -0.50 dioptre (D) or greater in one or both eyes and hyperopia as a spherical equivalent of +2.00 D or greater. A cylindrical power of -0.50 DC (D cylinder) or greater was considered as astigmatism. Chi-square was used to test differences in proportions. Differences were considered to be statistically significant at the five per cent level. RESULT: Of the 4,238 children, 405 (9.5 per cent) were visually impaired and of these 267 children were diagnosed as having refractive errors, with an overall prevalence of 6.3 per cent, comprised of 6.1 per cent in boys and 6.6 per cent in girls. Myopia is the most prevalent refractive error; accounting for 6.0 per cent, followed by compound myopic astigmatism 1.2 per cent, then simple myopic astigmatism 0.5 per cent, mixed astigmatism 0.26 per cent and finally hyperopia 0.33 per cent. Reasons for visual acuity of 6/12 or worse in the better eye were found to be refractive error (65.9 per cent), corneal problems (12.8 per cent) and amblyopia (9.6 per cent). The prevalence of manifest strabismus in the study group was 1.1 per cent (n = 45). CONCLUSION: The study concluded that uncorrected refractive error is a common cause of visual impairment among schoolchildren in rural central Ethiopia. This indicates the need for regular school-screening programs that provide glasses at low cost or free of charge for those who have refractive errors.
Clinical and Experimental Optometry 07/2012; 96(1). DOI:10.1111/j.1444-0938.2012.00762.x · 1.26 Impact Factor