Refractive errors and cataract as causes of visual impairment in Brazil

Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2003 Feb;10(1):15-22. doi: 10.1076/opep.


Purpose: To identify the main causes of visual impairment (VA <or= 0.2) within the population over 50 years of age examined in "Cataract Free Zone" projects sponsored by the University of Campinas from 1986 to 1995.

Methods: A retrospective review of the ophthalmic forms used for 60,404 patients examined in 74 Cataract Projects was performed. Through mass media information, adults of the target region or city were asked to self-test their vision. Patients with VA <or= 0.2 in the better eye were to come to a visual acuity test. Using Snellen charts, visual acuity testing was done by trained auxiliaries and medical students. The positive cases were then examined by ophthalmologists Criteria were established for the classification of the diagnoses and statistical analysis was performed.

Results: After the self-test of visual acuity, 60,404 patients came to have their visual acuity tested; 11,462 (18.97%) cases were considered positive and were submitted to complete eye examination; 5447 (42.7%) received spectacles for vision improvement, and 2704 (23.59%) had cataract surgery done. Other important causes of visual impairment were senile macular degeneration (5.4%) and glaucoma (4.02%).

Conclusion: The main causes of visual impairment were non-corrected refractive errors and senile cataract. Ophthalmic community-based campaigns to serve the older population are recommended in order to detect and treat the identified cases and to indicate possible changes in the health care system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • Cataract / complications*
  • Cataract / epidemiology
  • Cataract / therapy
  • Cataract Extraction
  • Eyeglasses
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Refractive Errors / complications*
  • Refractive Errors / epidemiology
  • Refractive Errors / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vision Disorders / epidemiology
  • Vision Disorders / etiology*
  • Vision Disorders / therapy
  • Vision Tests
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visually Impaired Persons / statistics & numerical data*