Prevalence of Refractive Error and Visual Impairment among Rural School-Age Children of Goro District, Gurage Zone, Ethiopia
Background: Refractive error is one of the major causes of blindness and visual impairment in children; but community based studies are scarce especially in rural parts of Ethiopia. So, this study aims to assess the prevalence of refractive error and its magnitude as a cause of visual impairment among school-age children of rural community.
Methods: This community-based cross-sectional descriptive study was conducted from March 1 to April 30, 2009 in rural villages of Goro district of Gurage Zone, found south west of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. A multistage cluster sampling method was used with simple random selection of representative villages in the district. Chi-Square and t-tests were used in the data analysis.
Results: A total of 570 school-age children (age 7-15) were evaluated, 54% boys and 46% girls. The prevalence of refractive error was 3.5% (myopia 2.6% and hyperopia 0.9%). Refractive error was the major cause of visual impairment accounting for 54% of all causes in the study group. No child was found wearing corrective spectacles during the study period.
Conclusion: Refractive error was the commonest cause of visual impairment in children of the district, but no measures were taken to reduce the burden in the community. So, large scale community level screening for refractive error should be conducted and integrated with regular school eye screening programs. Effective strategies need to be devised to provide low cost corrective spectacles in the rural community.
Keywords: Refractive error, visual acuity, visual impairment, children