Causes of Visual Loss in Students Attending Schools for the Blind in South Eastern Nigeria
Objective: To determine the causes of visual loss among students in special education centers for the blind in Abia and Ebonyi States, Nigeria.
Materials and Methods: The study was a descriptive, cross-sectional study of students in two schools selected by random sampling of the
schools for the blind in South East Nigeria. The students were interviewed and had a general examination. Ocular examination included visual
acuity assessment, anterior and posterior segment examination, intraocular pressure measurement, and refraction. Responses and examination
findings were recorded on the World Health Organization’s Programme for the Prevention of Blindness eye examination record for children
with blindness and low vision.
Results: Ninety-two students were studied. The most common etiological causes of visual loss were cataract and hereditary diseases (23.9% each) followed by glaucoma (18.5%). Other causes were abnormalities since birth of unknown etiology (9.7%); childhood factors such as measles (2.2%) and cortical blindness/idiopathic nystagmus/primary optic atrophy (7.6%); trauma (7.6%); cerebral hypoxia (2.2%); harmful traditional practices (2.2%) and intrauterine factors such as drugs and alcohol (1.1%). Avoidable causes of blindness were seen in 64.2%.
Conclusion: Cataract and hereditary diseases are the main reason for enrolment into blind schools in the region. To reduce the burden of childhood blindness, there is a need for interventions targeting improved antenatal care, discouraging harmful traditional practices, training of community level health workers for eye care/case detection, low vision and pediatric ophthalmic care.
Keywords: Avoidable blindness, blindness/causes, childhood blindness, schools for the blind, visual loss