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Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2002 Oct;9(4):251-62.

Evaluation of E-optotypes as a screening test and the prevalence and causes of visual loss in a rural population in SW Uganda.

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  • 1Medical Research Council Programme on AIDS, Uganda Virus Research Institute, Entebbe, Uganda. mbulaits@mail.nih.gov



Few population-based eye surveys have been conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, limiting the quality of epidemiological information on visual loss from Africa. In the present paper, we describe the prevalence of visual loss in rural Uganda and the screening accuracy of E-optotypes when used by non-medical staff.


Residents of 15 neighbouring villages were screened for visual loss (<6/18 in either eye) using Snellen's E-optotypes. Individuals who failed were initially referred to an ophthalmic clinical officer (OCO), who retested visual acuity and subsequently referred to an ophthalmologist to determine the cause of visual loss. Subjects from two villages (248 individuals) who passed visual acuity screening were re-examined by the OCO to estimate the accuracy of the screening procedure.


Of the 4076 adults (aged 13 years and over, 69.3% of the censused population) who participated, 191 (4.7%) failed the vision screening criteria and 648 (15.9%) had non-vision impairing conditions. The prevalence of visual loss was at least 3.9%: 0.4% had bilateral blindness, 1.6% had bilateral visual impairment, 0.7% had unilateral blindness and 1.2% unilateral visual impairment. Cataract was the leading cause for all categories of visual loss except bilateral blindness, for which suspected glaucoma was most frequent. Refractive errors were the second leading cause of bilateral and unilateral visual impairment. Based on one subject (0.4%) in the validation sample who was found to have low vision, we estimated the sensitivity and specificity of E-optotypes for detecting visual loss to be 93% and 99%, respectively.


Cataract and refractive errors were responsible for most of the visual loss in rural Uganda. Snellen's E-optotypes provide a suitable cost-saving tool for conducting population-based eye surveys in sub-Saharan Africa.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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