Prevalence of refractive error and visual impairment among rural dwellers in mashonaland Central Province, Zimbabwe
Selassie Tagoh1, Samuel Kyei2, Michael Agyemang Kwarteng3, Evans Aboagye1
1 Department of Optometry, Faculty of Sciences and Engineering, Bindura University of Science Education, Bindura, Zimbabwe
2 Department of Optometry, Faculty of Sciences and Engineering, Bindura University of Science Education, Bindura, Zimbabwe; Department of Optometry and Vision Science, School of Allied Health Sciences, College of Health and Allied Sciences, University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, Ghana
3 Discipline of Optometry, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Department of Optometry and Vision Science, School of Allied Health Sciences, College of Health and Allied Science, University of Cape Coast, Cape Coast, PMB
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Purpose: To determine the prevalence of refractive error and visual impairment in a rural population of Zimbabwe.
Methods: This community-based, cross-sectional study used a multi-stage sampling to select the participants from households in four communities within three rural districts in Mashonaland Central Province. Participants' demographic data were collated, and their presenting visual acuity (VA) was measured using the logMAR E chart. Clinical refraction was preceded by an anterior segment and posterior segment eye examinations. Visual impairment was defined as presenting VA worse than 6/12 (0.3 logMAR) in the better eye. Descriptive statistics were presented as frequencies.
Results: A total of 519 participants were involved in this study. Their ages ranged from 5 to 100 years (mean age = 50.94; standard deviation ± 21.12 years). Out of the 519 participants, 233 (44.9%) were male, and 286 (55.1%) were female. The prevalence of visual impairment was 56.8% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 55.7–67.2), and blindness was 13.1% (95% CI: 11.2–17.6). The prevalence of near visual impairment based on presenting near VA (N = 408) was 78.6% (95% CI: 78.1–85.4). The two most common causes of visual impairment were uncorrected refractive errors (UREs) (54.2%) and cataract (24.8%). The most common cause of blindness was cataract (41.2%). Hypermetropia (56.9%) was the most common refractive error.
Conclusions: A high burden of visual impairment due to UREs and cataracts was observed among the rural dwellers of Zimbabwe. Public health education, access to refractive error services, and cataract surgery are necessary to mitigate this high burden of visual impairment.