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Prevalence and causes of blindness and Low Vision in Ethiopia

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Background: Ethiopia lacked accurate recent national estimates of blindness and low vision. Therefore, prevention and control programs face serious problem of lack of recognition of the problem and challenges in tracking achievements towards program goals. Objective: To determine the prevalence of blindness and low vision at the national and regional levels in Ethiopia. Method: A national survey was conducted on a representative population in all nine regional states and two city administrations of the country. The LogMar chart was used to determine the presenting visual acuity and ophthalmologists determined the primary cause of low vision and blindness. Results: Based on the assessment of the presenting visual acuity, the national prevalence of blindness is 1.6% (1.1% for urban and 1.6% for rural populations) and that of low vision is 3.7% (2.6% for urban and 3.8% for rural populations). Blindness and Low vision are more prevalent among females. The major causes of blindness are cataract and trachomatous corneal opacity. The major causes of low vision are cataract and refractive error. Prevalence of childhood blindness is 0.1% and accounts for over 6% of the total blindness burden in Ethiopia. The national prevalence of Bitot\'s spots is 0.7%. Conclusion: Blindness and low vision are major public health problems in Ethiopia. The large proportion of low vision (91.2%) and blindness (87.4%) are due to avoidable (either preventable or treatable) causes. Females and rural residents carry greater risk for eye problems. Adequate emphasis needs to be given to prevent blindness among children and avert millions of years of unnecessary blindness. Recognizing the severity of the magnitude of eye problems (blindness and low vision) and enhancing the government commitment to improve the situation is critical. Ethiopian Journal of Health Development Vol. 21 (3) 2007: pp. 204-210


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