Purpose: To investigate the utility of uncorrected visual acuity measures in screening for refractive error in white school children aged 6-7-years and 12-13-years.
Methods: The Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (NICER) study used a stratified random cluster design to recruit children from schools in Northern Ireland. Detailed eye examinations included assessment of logMAR visual acuity and cycloplegic autorefraction. Spherical equivalent refractive data from the right eye were used to classify significant refractive error as myopia of at least 1DS, hyperopia as greater than +3.50DS and astigmatism as greater than 1.50DC, whether it occurred in isolation or in association with myopia or hyperopia.
Results: Results are presented from 661 white 12-13-year-old and 392 white 6-7-year-old school-children. Using a cut-off of uncorrected visual acuity poorer than 0.20 logMAR to detect significant refractive error gave a sensitivity of 50% and specificity of 92% in 6-7-year-olds and 73% and 93% respectively in 12-13-year-olds. In 12-13-year-old children a cut-off of poorer than 0.20 logMAR had a sensitivity of 92% and a specificity of 91% in detecting myopia and a sensitivity of 41% and a specificity of 84% in detecting hyperopia.
Conclusions: Vision screening using logMAR acuity can reliably detect myopia, but not hyperopia or astigmatism in school-age children. Providers of vision screening programs should be cognisant that where detection of uncorrected hyperopic and/or astigmatic refractive error is an aspiration, current UK protocols will not effectively deliver.