Objective To assess the prevalence of blindness and visual impairment (VI), their associated causes and underlying risk factors in three tribal areas of Andhra Pradesh, India and compare this data in conjunction with data from other countries with low and middle income settings. Methods Using a validated Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness methodology, a two stage sampling survey was performed in these areas involving probability proportionate to size sampling and compact segment sampling methods. Blindness, VI and severe visual impairment (SVI) were defined as per the WHO guidelines and Indian definitions. Results Based on a prior enumeration, 7281 (97.1%) subjects were enrolled (mean age = 61.0+/？7.9 years). Based on the presenting visual acuity (PVA), the prevalences of VI, SVI and blindness were 16.9% (95% CI: 15.7–18.1), 2.9% (95% CI: 2.5–3.4), and 2.3% (95% CI: 1.9–2.7), respectively. When based on the Pinhole corrected visual acuity (PCVA), the prevalences were lower in VI (6.2%, 95% CI: 5.4–6.9), SVI (1.5%, 95% CI: 1.2–1.9) and blindness (2.1%, 95% CI: 1.7–2.5). Refractive error was the major cause of VI (71.4%), whereas, cataract was the major cause of SVI and blindness (70.3%). Based on the PVA, the odds ratio (OR) of blindness increased in the age groups of 60–69 years (OR = 3.8, 95% CI: 2.8, 5.1), 70–79 years (OR = 10.6, 95% CI: 7.2, 15.5) and 80 years and above (OR = 30.7, 95% CI: 19.2, 49). The ORs were relatively higher in females (OR = 1.3, 95% CI: 1.0, 1.6) and illiterate subjects (OR = 4.3, 95% CI: 2.2, 8.5), but lower in those wearing glasses (OR = 0.2, 95% CI: 0.1, 0.4). Conclusions This is perhaps the first study to assess the prevalence of blindness and VI in these tribal regions and the majority of the causes of blindness and SVI were avoidable (88.5%). These findings may be useful for planning eye care services in these underserved regions.
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