Visual problems among people with mental retardation

Int J Rehabil Res. 2003 Jun;26(2):149-52. doi: 10.1097/00004356-200306000-00012.


Vision impairment can be a debilitating condition, affecting not only the social, emotional, mental and physical functioning of an individual, but also the individual's ability to perform basic and instrumental activities of daily living. Scant knowledge exists about visual impairment among people with mental retardation. The results of this prospective study were based on interviews and eye ophthalmologic screening of 106 adults with a moderate level of mental retardation, ranging in ages from 19 to 62 years. Findings show that only 3% of those interviewed recalled having had an eye examination, yet 24% reported that they had visual problems. In spite of the high probability of visual problems for this group, only 13% reported having glasses and 20% said they needed glasses; 92% reported watching television but 22% stated they had difficulty seeing the TV; 62% of the respondents reported that they cook for themselves but 17% reported that visual problems affected their ability to perform this activity. Medical eye screening of the participants found that 79% had ocular problems - 42% were in need of eyeglasses, 12% had a cataract problem requiring surgery and 25% needed outpatient care at the local hospital. The study findings are discussed in terms of policy implications and service provision, and recommendations are made for additional research.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / complications*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needs Assessment
  • Prospective Studies
  • Vision Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Vision Disorders / therapy
  • Vision Screening*