Original Research

A population-based study of visual impairment in the Lower Tugela health district in KZN, SA

K.S. Naidoo, D Sweeney, J Jaggernath, B. Holden
African Vision and Eye Health | South African Optometrist: Vol 72, No 3 | a284 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v72i3.284 | © 2013 K.S. Naidoo, D Sweeney, J Jaggernath, B. Holden | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 January 2013 | Published: 07 January 2013

About the author(s)

K.S. Naidoo, African Vision Research Institute Brien Holden Vision Institute
D Sweeney, College of Health and Sciences, University of Western Sydney
J Jaggernath, African Vision Research Institute
B. Holden, African Vision Research Institute Brien Holden Vision Institute

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A cross-sectional, population-based, epidemiological study of blindness and visual impairment was conducted to evaluate the prevalence of vision loss and various sight-threatening conditions in the Lower Tugela health district of the KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. This study was conducted on a randomly selected sample of 3444 individuals from the district. This number represented 84% of those who were visited and 80.1% of the total sample selected. The participants ranged in age from 5 to 93 years (mean of 29.2 years and a median of 20.0 years). The proportion of men to women differed between participants aged <30 years and those aged >30 years. In both age groups, women represented the majority of participants (66.5%), but the number of women to men in the older age group was approximately twice that found in the group aged less than 30 years. The difference in age between the men and women in the study was not statistically significant (p >0.5). The study revealed that 6.4% of the population studied were visually impaired. The distribution of uncorrected visual acuity was better for women than for men for both OD and OS (p = 0.000 for OD and OS). The main causes of visual impairment were refractive error (44.5%), cataract (31.2%), glaucoma (6.0%), hypertensive retinopathy (4.1%) and diabetic retinopathy (4.1%). Unilateral blindness (OD) was present in 0.78% (95% Confidence interval (CI): 0.42%-1.14%) of participants and unilateral blindness (OS) was present in 1.1% (95% CI: 0.70%-1.50%). Thirty-one participants (0.9%) were bilaterally blind with the main causes being cataracts (54.8%) and refractive error (12.9%). Glaucoma and hypertensive retinopathy were responsible for 6.4% of ..bilateral blindness. Diabetic retinopathy, other retinal conditions (coloboma) and corneal scarring were each responsible for 3.2% of bilateral blindness. Albinism, coloboma and age-related macular degeneration accounted for 9.7% of bilateral blindness. The data provides much needed information to support the planning of eye care programs in KwaZulu-Natal.  (S Afr Optom 2013 72(3) 110-118)


visual impairment, blindness, refractive error, cataract, diabetic retinopathy


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