Causes of childhood visual impairment and unmet low-vision care in blind school students in Ghana

Int Ophthalmol. 2008 Oct;28(5):317-23. doi: 10.1007/s10792-007-9134-x. Epub 2007 Sep 26.


The purpose of this study was to determine the causes of childhood visual impairment and blindness in students of a school for blind children, to determine how many students had some residual vision, and to evaluate any unmet low-vision care. A survey of students in the blind school was conducted in two parts in May-June and then October 2003. The sample consisted of 201 students who became blind before the age of 16. Information was obtained from student interviews, doctors' referral notes and ophthalmic examination of all students who consented. Students with residual vision had low-vision assessments. These investigations were supplemented with active participation of the investigators in Parent-Teacher Association meetings and focus group discussions with parents. One hundred and ninety-nine students consented and were recruited, whereas two declined. Ninety-six became visually impaired within their first year of life and 33 by the age of 5 years. Pathology of the cornea and then the lens were the commonest causes of blindness. One hundred and eight students were totally blind, whereas 87 (43.7%) had some residual vision and formed the target for the second part of the study. Fifty-one out of 77 of this target group who turned up for low-vision examination had useful residual vision by the World Health Organisation (WHO) low-vision examination chart. Spectacle magnifiers aided two students to read normal print at N5 and N8, respectively. Different visual aids would help enhance the residual vision in some of the others. Emotional trauma was apparent in parents and teachers. Children who became blind later in life remained in shock for a longer time and adapted less well to their visual impairment. Visual impairment in the population is not uncommon. Some causes are preventable. There is a significant unmet need for low-vision care, particularly amongst children in Ghana, and perhaps many countries in the West Africa subregion. It is hoped that the findings from this study will help spur sustained interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blindness / epidemiology
  • Blindness / etiology*
  • Blindness / rehabilitation
  • Child
  • Child Health Services
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disabled Children*
  • Education, Special*
  • Female
  • Ghana / epidemiology
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Schools
  • Sensory Aids
  • Vision, Low / epidemiology
  • Vision, Low / etiology*
  • Vision, Low / rehabilitation
  • Visually Impaired Persons / statistics & numerical data*