Background: The purpose of this study is to elucidate the prevalence of strabismus and amblyopia in a large population of Japanese elementary school children, from Grade 1 to Grade 6, ages ranging from 6 to 12 years. The School Health Law requires that all pupils in Grade 1 to Grade 6 be examined for vision and eye problems. Visual acuity testing is done by school teachers and eye disease screening by school ophthalmologists. Pupils with suspected ocular diseases are further examined by extramural ophthalmologists and the results reported back to the schools. The schools then summarize and send uncorrected visual acuity and ocular disease incidence, together with other health statistics, to the municipal education committees. The data are forwarded to the Prefecture Governments and finally submitted to the Education Ministry of the Central Government. Both the Prefecture Governments and the Education Ministry publicize the school health statistics on their websites. The prevalence of strabismus and amblyopia remains unknown from these data because both diagnoses are included under the heading, eye diseases.
Methods: Questionnaires asking about the numbers of children with different types of strabismus and amblyopia were sent to all elementary schools in Okayama Prefecture and the results were summarized.
Results: The number of children covered by the return of questionnaires was 86,531 (76.4%) of 113,254 total pupils in Grade 1 to Grade 6 in Okayama Prefecture in the year 2003. The total numbers of children with strabismus and amblyopia were 1,112 (1.28%) and 125 (0.14%), respectively. The numbers of children with any type of exotropia and any type of esotropia were 602 (0.69%) and 245 (0.28%), respectively. The major types of strabismus and amblyopia were intermittent exotropia in 109 children (0.12%), accommodative esotropia in 19 children (0.02%), anisometropic amblyopia in 23 children (0.03%), and ametropic amblyopia in 12 children (0.01%). The number of children with strabismus of unknown type was 245 (0.28%) while the number of children with amblyopia of unknown type was 81 (0.09%).
Conclusions: The prevalence rates of strabismus and amblyopia in this population of Japanese elementary school children were lower than those reported in Western countries. The exotropia/esotropia ratio were increased in comparison with past studies in Japan. The school eye doctors need to be more diligent in identifying and diagnosing various types of strabismus and amblyopia in order to contribute to the school vision screening program already in place in Japan