Blindness and visual impairment in an urban west african population: The tema eye survey

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Journal Article

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Objective: To determine the prevalence, causes, and risk factors of blindness and visual impairment among persons aged 40 years or older residing in an urban West African location. Design: Population-based, cross-sectional study. Participants: A total of 5603 participants residing in Tema, Ghana. Methods: Proportionate random cluster sampling was used to select participants aged 40 years or older living in the city of Tema. Presenting distance visual acuity (VA) was measured at 4 and 1 m using a reduced logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution tumbling E chart and then with trial frame based on autorefraction. A screening examination was performed in the field on all participants. Complete clinical examination by an ophthalmologist was performed on participants with best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) <20/40 or failure of any screening test. Main Outcome Measures: Age- and gender-specific prevalence, causes, and risk factors for blindness (VA of <20/400 in the better eye, World Health Organization definition) and visual impairment (VA of <20/40 in the better eye). Results: A total of 6806 eligible participants were identified, of whom 5603 (82.3%) participated in the study. The mean age (± standard deviation) of participants was 52.7±10.9 years. The prevalence of visual impairment and blindness was 17.1% and 1.2%, respectively. After refraction and spectacle correction, the prevalence of visual impairment and blindness decreased to 6.7% and 0.75%, respectively, suggesting that refractive error is the major correctable cause of visual impairment and blindness in this population. Of 65 subjects with a VA <20/400, 22 (34%) were correctable with refraction, 21 to the level of visual impairment and 1 to normal. The remaining 43 patients (66%) had underlying pathology (cataract in 19, glaucoma in 9, nonglaucomatous optic neuropathy in 3, corneal opacities in 3, retinal disease in 3, and undetermined in 5) that prevented refractive correction. Increased age was a significant risk factor for blindness and visual impairment. Conclusions: There is a high prevalence of blindness and visual impairment among those aged <40 years in Tema, Ghana, West Africa. Refractive error is a major cause of blindness and visual impairment in this population, followed by cataract, glaucoma, and corneal disease. Financial Disclosure(s): The author(s) have no proprietary or commercial interest in any materials discussed in this article. © 2012 American Academy of Ophthalmology.