Objective: To determine the prevalence and causes of low vision and blindness in a Japanese adult population.
Design: Population-based cross-sectional study.
Participants: Randomly selected residents (n = 3870) of Tajimi City, Japan, who were 40 years of age or older.
Methods: Of the 3021 study participants (78.1% of 3870 eligible persons), 2977 (76.9%) underwent a complete ophthalmologic examination including measurement of the best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) with full subjective refraction using a Landolt ring chart at 5 m. Age- and gender-specific prevalence rates of low vision and blindness were estimated and causes were identified.
Main outcome measures: Low vision and blindness were defined as BCVA in the better eye worse than 20/60 to a lower limit of 20/400 and worse than 20/400, respectively (World Health Organization [WHO] criteria) and worse than 20/40 but better than 20/200 and 20/200 or worse, respectively (United States criteria).
Results: The overall prevalence of blindness according to the WHO or U.S. criteria was 0.14% (n = 4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.06-0.32). The primary causes were optic atrophy, myopic macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and uveitis. The overall prevalence of low vision according to the WHO criteria was 0.39% (95% CI, 0.18%-0.60%) and according to the U.S. criteria was 0.98% (95% CI, 0.66%-1.30%), which was significantly greater in women and in the older half of the participants than in the younger half (P = 0.0079 and <0.0001, respectively). The leading causes of low vision in descending order were cataract followed by glaucoma, and those of monocular blindness were myopic macular degeneration, glaucoma, and trauma.
Conclusions: The prevalence of low vision and blindness in Japanese adults was one of the lowest among those reported. The major causes of low vision were cataract and glaucoma, and the leading cause of monocular blindness was myopic macular degeneration.