Purpose: To examine the causes and outcome of subnormal vision starting in childhood in Uganda, to aid in planning for its avoidance and for rehabilitation.
Methods: All those seen having subnormal vision with onset from birth to 15 years (total 1135) (schools 1983-97; community 1988-97) were included in the study. Clinical examination was performed and a World Health Organisation (WHO) form completed, with analysis by its computer program. Main outcome measures were visual acuity, signs of eye pathology, outcome of treatment and refraction and low vision assessment.
Results: By WHO category 14.8% had visual impairment, 6.5% severe visual impairment, 63.2% were blind and 15.2% were too young to test. The acuities and causes were similar in school and community groups, excepting cortical visual impairment and multiple impairment, which are much commoner in the community. Cataract was the largest cause of visual impairment (30.7%) and surgical outcome was unsatisfactory. Visual loss following corneal ulceration was the second commonest cause of subnormal vision (22.0%).
Conclusions: Cataract and corneal damage cause half of all subnormal vision, which is avoidable for both. Cataract surgery needs to be upgraded. To prevent corneal visual loss, primary health care should continue to be expanded, especially measles immunisation and nutrition care; rubella immunisation should be added. Special education needs to be greatly expanded. Public perceptions need changing if results are to be improved and help offered to more than the present minority.