Aims: To determine the causes of severe visual impairment and blindness (SVI/BL) in children in Suriname (Dutch Guyana) and to identify preventable and treatable causes.
Methods: 4643 children under 16 years of age were recruited from two locations: 33 children attending the only school for the blind were examined and 4610 medical records were analysed at an eye clinic. Data have been collected using the WHO Prevention of Blindness Programme eye examination record for children.
Results: 65 children were identified with SVI/BL, 58.5% were blind and 41.5% were severely visually impaired (SVI). The major anatomical site of SVI/BL was the retina in 33.8%, lens in 15.4% and normal appearing globe in 15.4%. The major underlying aetiology of SVI/BL was undetermined in 56.9% (mainly cataract and abnormality since birth) and perinatal factors 21.5% (mainly retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)). Avoidable causes of SVI/BL accounted for 40% of cases; 7.7% were preventable and 32.3% were treatable with cataracts and ROP the most common causes (15.4% and 12.3%, respectively).
Conclusions: More than a third of the SVI/BL causes are potentially avoidable, with childhood cataract and ROP the leading causes. Corneal scarring from vitamin A deficiency does not seem to be a continuing issue in Suriname.
Keywords: Child health (paediatrics); Epidemiology; Public health; Vision.