Prevalence of Refractive Errors Among Schoolchildren in Rural Central Ethiopia
The aim of the present study was to assess the prevalence of refractive errors and visual impairment among schoolchildren in rural central Ethiopia.
4,238 (aged 7-18 years) were screened for refractive errors in 14 schools. 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.
405 children (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%.
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.