Refractive error and visual impairment in urban children in southern china

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2004 Mar;45(3):793-9. doi: 10.1167/iovs.03-1051.


Purpose: To assess the prevalence of refractive error and visual impairment in school-age children in a metropolitan area of southern China.

Methods: Random selection of geographically defined clusters was used to identify children 5 to 15 years of age in Guangzhou. Children in 22 clusters were enumerated through a door-to-door survey and examined in 71 schools and 19 community facilities from October 2002 to January 2003. The examination included visual acuity measurements, ocular motility evaluation, retinoscopy, and autorefraction under cycloplegia and examination of the external eye, anterior segment, media, and fundus.

Results: A total of 5053 children living in 4814 households were enumerated, and 4364 (86.4%) were examined. The prevalence of uncorrected, presenting, and best-corrected visual acuity 20/40 or worse in the better eye was 22.3%, 10.3%, and 0.62%, respectively. Refractive error was the cause in 94.9% of the 2335 eyes with reduced vision, amblyopia in 1.9%, other causes in 0.4%, and unexplained causes in the remaining 2.8%. External and anterior segment abnormalities were seen in 1496 (34.3%) children, mainly minor conjunctival abnormalities. Media and fundus abnormalities were observed in 32 (0.73%) children. Myopia (spherical equivalent of at least -0.50 D in either eye) measured with retinoscopy affected 73.1% of children 15 years of age, 78.4% with autorefraction. The prevalence of myopia was 3.3% in 5-year-olds with retinoscopy and 5.7% with autorefraction. Females had a significantly higher risk of myopia. Hyperopia (+2.00 D or more) measured with retinoscopy was present in 16.7% of 5-year-olds, 17.0% with autorefraction. The prevalence of hyperopia was below 1% in 15-year-olds, with both methods. Astigmatism (cylinder of > or = 0.75 D) was present in 33.6% of children with retinoscopy and in 42.7% with autorefraction.

Conclusions: The prevalence of reduced vision because of myopia is high in school-age children living in metropolitan Guangzhou, representing an important public health problem. One third of these children do not have the necessary corrective spectacles. Effective strategies are needed to eliminate this easily treated cause of significant visual impairment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • China / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pilot Projects
  • Prevalence
  • Refraction, Ocular
  • Refractive Errors / complications
  • Refractive Errors / epidemiology*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vision Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Vision Disorders / etiology
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visually Impaired Persons / statistics & numerical data*