Background: Given the high prevalence of 43% in a hospital based study at Ruharo Eye Center, it is prudent to know what is happening in the community because School-going children represent a particularly vulnerable group among those with uncorrected refractive errors.
Information about the magnitude and pattern of refractive errors in children is essential for planning effective community programs to deal with the problem.
Objective: To determine the prevalence and pattern of refractive errors among primary school children aged 5 to 15 years in Mbarara Municipality, Southwestern Uganda.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional descriptive school based study in which a sample of primary school children was screened for refractive errors in Mbarara Municipality in Southwestern Uganda. The study population comprised all primary school going children sampled from the selected schools and targeted all the children with refractive errors found in the selected schools. A multistage stratified random sampling was used. A total of 4 schools were selected from 61 schools all primary schools with classes up to primary seven both public and private. The schools were regarded as strata. Based on the overall number of pupils in all the 4 schools put together, the proportionate contribution of each school was calculated. The pupils in each school were then selected using simple random sampling as to meet the assigned sample size per school. A case was defined as a pupil with a significant refractive error if the visual acuity during the study period was less than 6/6 in the better eye with the use of a Snellens chart and was improving with refraction. Objective and subjective refractions were done only in the cases. Data was analysed using STATA version 11.0. A p-value of < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
Results: A total number of 1135 pupils participated in the study. The prevalence of refractive errors was 4.6% (95%CI 3.5-6.0). Astigmatism accounted for 2.3%, myopia 1.2% and hyperopia 1.1%. No significant difference was found with the pattern of refractive errors among the study participants. Among the pupils diagnosed with refractive errors, only 7.7% had corrective glasses.
Conclusion: Astigmatism is the commonest type of refractive error among the children of age 5 - 15 years followed by myopia and hyperopia. Refractive errors remain uncorrected in a significant number of children.