Prevalence and causes of visual impairment and blindness among school children in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan
Keywords:Visual impairment, Blindness, Prevalence, School-based, Ocular epidemiology, Muzaffarabad
Background: Vision loss in childhood has serious implications in all stages of child’s growth and development. It poses social, educational and occupational challenges, with affected children being at greater risk of developing behavioral, psychological and emotional problems, lower self-esteem and poorer social integration. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence and identify the causes of visual impairment and blindness in school children of UC Gojra, Muzaffarabad, Pakistan so that prevention strategies could be implemented.
Methods: This was a school-based descriptive cross-sectional study conducted among public and private schools. A multi-stage stratified random sampling technique was used for selecting study participants aged 5-20 years from 24 schools in Muzaffarabad. The vision of school children was examined for visual acuity using standard Snellen chart. Those participants who had visual acuity of <6/18 in either eye underwent a more detailed ophthalmic examination to diagnose the causes of VI. An exploration of demographic variables was conducted using Chi-square test.
Results: The mean age of participants was 10±2.83. The prevalence of visual impairment was 19.6% and 2.3% for severe visual impairment. The age group most affected by VI was 11-15 years (74.2%). There were increased chances of developing VI with advancing age of the participants. Males contributed 88.7% of the cases of VI while females contributed only 11.3%. The class category 5-6 had higher percentage of VI cases (32.7%). Public schools contributed 52.8% of the cases of VI while for private schools the corresponding percentage was 47.2%. The leading cause of VI was refractive error (89.3%) followed by amblyopia (5.0%). Other causes of VI included cataract (1.2%), corneal disease (1.8%), strabismus (1.8%) and nystagmus (0.6%).
Conclusions: There is a need to implement school health policy on visual screening prior to admissions in schools and annual eye screening program for early detection and prompt treatment of eye problems among school children in Muzaffarabad.
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