Purpose: The aim of this study is to determine the cataract surgical coverage and investigate the barriers to cataract surgery as reported by those with cataract-induced visual impairment in rural Myanmar.
Methods: A cross-sectional, population-based survey of inhabitants 40 years of age and over from villages in the Meiktila District (central Myanmar); 2481 eligible participants were identified and 2076 participated. Data recording included corrected visual acuity, dilated slit lamp examination and stereoscopic fundus examination. Lens opacity was graded using the Lens Opacities Classification System III. Participants with cataract-induced visual impairment (acuity < 6/18 in better eye) were also invited to respond to a verbal questionnaire about barriers to cataract surgery.
Results: Cataract surgical coverage for visual acuity cut-offs of <6/18, <6/60 and <3/60 was 9.74%, 20.11% and 22.3%, respectively, for people and 4.18%, 9.39% and 13.47%, respectively, for eyes. Cataract surgical coverage was higher for men than women, but gender was not associated with refusal of services. Of the 239 who responded to the extra questionnaire, 216 were blind or had low vision owing to cataract. Three quarters refused referral for surgery: cost and fear of surgery were the most frequently reported barriers.
Conclusion: Cost plays a large role in the burden of cataract in this region. Implementation of educational programmes, reforms to local health service and subsidization of ophthalmic care may improve the uptake of cataract surgery.