Purpose: Data on the prevalence and causes of functional low vision (FLV) in adults and children are lacking but are important for planning low-vision services. This study was conducted to determine the prevalence and causes of FLV among children recruited in eight population-based prevalence surveys of visual impairment and refractive error from six countries (India [2 locations]; China [2 locations]; Malaysia, Chile, Nepal, and South Africa).
Methods: Using the same protocol, 4082 to 6527 children aged 5 (or 7) to 15 years were examined at each site. Uncorrected and presenting visual acuities were successfully measured with retroilluminated logMAR tumbling-E charts in 3997 to 5949 children; cycloplegic autorefraction was performed and best corrected acuities assessed. All children were examined by an ophthalmologist and a cause of visual loss assigned to eyes with uncorrected acuity < or =6/12. The prevalence of FLV was determined overall and by site; associations with gender, age, parental education and urban/rural location were assessed with logistic regression.
Results: The prevalence of FLV ranged from 0.65 to 2.75 in 1000 children, with wide confidence intervals. The overall prevalence was 1.52 in 1000 children (95% CI 1.16-1.95). FLV was significantly associated with age (odds ratio [OR] 1.13 for each year, P = 0.01), and parental education was protective (OR 0.75 for each of five levels of education, P = 0.017). Retinal lesions and amblyopia were the commonest causes.
Conclusions: More studies are needed to determine the prevalence and causes of FLV in children so that services can be planned that promote independence, improve quality of life, and increase access to education.