Purpose: To assess the prevalence of refractive error in schoolchildren aged 12-14 years in urban and rural settings in Cambodia's Phnom Penh and Kandal provinces.
Methods: Ten schools from Phnom Penh Province and 26 schools from Kandal Province were randomly selected and surveyed in October 2010. Children were examined by teams of Australian and Cambodian optometrists, ophthalmic nurses and ophthalmologists who performed visual acuity (VA) testing and cycloplegic refraction.
Results: A total of 5527 children were included in the study. The prevalence of uncorrected, presenting and best-corrected VA ≤ 6/12 in the better eye were 2.48% (95% confidence interval [CI] 2.02-2.83%), 1.90% (95% CI 1.52-2.24%) and 0.36% (95% CI 0.20-0.52%), respectively; 43 children presented with glasses whilst a total of 315 glasses were dispensed. The total prevalence of refractive error was 6.57% (95% CI 5.91-7.22%), but there was a significant difference between urban (13.7%, 95% CI 12.2-15.2%) and rural (2.5%, 95% CI 2.03-3.07%) schools (P < 0.0001). Refractive error accounted for 91.2% of visually impaired eyes, cataract for 1.7%, and other causes for 7.1%. Myopia (spherical equivalent ≤ -0.50 diopters [D] in either eye) was associated with increased age, female gender and urban schooling.
Conclusions: The prevalence of refractive error was significantly higher in urban Phnom Penh schools than rural schools in Kandal Province. The prevalence of refractive error, particularly myopia was relatively low compared to previous reports in Asia. The majority of children did not have appropriate correction with spectacles, highlighting the need for more effective screening and optical intervention.