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Acta Ophthalmol. 2010 May;88(3):358-66. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-3768.2008.01445.x. Epub 2009 Feb 11.

Five-year incidence of visual impairment and blindness in older Icelanders: the Reykjavik Eye Study.

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1
Department of Ophthalmology, University of Iceland, Iceland.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

This study examined age, sex and cause-specific 5-year incidence of visual impairment and blindness in a middle-aged and elderly Icelandic population.

METHODS:

The study cohort consisted of a population-based, random sample of citizens aged > or = 50 years. Of 1379 eligible subjects, 1045 underwent a baseline examination in 1996; 846 of the 958 survivors (88.2%) underwent a 5-year follow-up examination in 2001. All participants underwent an extensive ophthalmological examination including best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) using a Snellen chart. We used World Health Organization (WHO) criteria, which define visual impairment as BCVA in the better eye of < 6/18 and > or = 3/60 and blindness as BCVA in the better eye of < 3/60. We also used US criteria, which consider BCVA of < 6/12 and > 6/60 in the better eye to represent visual impairment and BCVA of < or = 6/60 in the better eye to represent blindness. The causes of incident visual loss in either eye were determined. Deterioration or improvement in vision were defined as a loss or gain of > or = 2 Snellen lines.

RESULTS:

According to WHO criteria, 5-year incidence of bilateral visual impairment and blindness were 1.07% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.37-1.76) and 0.35% (95% CI 0.00-0.76), respectively. Using US criteria, equivalent incidence of bilateral visual impairment and blindness were 3.49% (95% CI 2.24-4.74) and 0.95% (95% CI 0.29-1.60), respectively. Age-related macular degeneration and cataract were the major causes of incident visual impairment and blindness.

CONCLUSIONS:

Incidences of visual impairment and blindness increased significantly with age. Age-related macular degeneration, present in 75% of affected persons, was the most common cause of 5-year incident legal blindness in this middle-aged and elderly Icelandic population.

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