Refractive error, visual acuity and causes of vision loss in children in Shandong, China. The Shandong Children Eye Study

PLoS One. 2013 Dec 23;8(12):e82763. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0082763. eCollection 2013.


Purpose: To examine the prevalence of refractive errors and prevalence and causes of vision loss among preschool and school children in East China.

Methods: Using a random cluster sampling in a cross-sectional school-based study design, children with an age of 4-18 years were selected from kindergartens, primary schools, and junior and senior high schools in the rural Guanxian County and the city of Weihai. All children underwent a complete ocular examination including measurement of uncorrected (UCVA) and best corrected visual acuity (BCVA) and auto-refractometry under cycloplegia. Myopia was defined as refractive error of ≤-0.5 diopters (D), high myopia as ≤ -6.0D, and amblyopia as BCVA ≤ 20/32 without any obvious reason for vision reduction and with strabismus or refractive errors as potential reasons.

Results: Out of 6364 eligible children, 6026 (94.7%) children participated. Prevalence of myopia (overall: 36.9 ± 0.6%;95% confidence interval (CI):36.0,38.0) increased (P<0.001) from 1.7 ± 1.2% (95%CI:0.0,4.0) in the 4-years olds to 84.6 ± 3.2% (95%CI:78.0,91.0) in 17-years olds. Myopia was associated with older age (OR:1.56;95%CI:1.52,1.60;P<0.001), female gender (OR:1.22;95%CI:1.08,1.39;P = 0.002) and urban region (OR:2.88;95%CI:2.53,3.29;P<0.001). Prevalence of high myopia (2.0 ± 0.2%) increased from 0.7 ± 0.3% (95%CI:0.1,1.3) in 10-years olds to 13.9 ± 3.0 (95%CI:7.8,19.9) in 17-years olds. It was associated with older age (OR:1.50;95%CI:1.41,1.60;P<0.001) and urban region (OR:3.11;95%CI:2.08,4.66);P<0.001). Astigmatism (≥ 0.75D) (36.3 ± 0.6%;95%CI:35.0,38.0) was associated with older age (P<0.001;OR:1.06;95%CI:1.04,1.09), more myopic refractive error (P<0.001;OR:0.94;95%CI:0.91,0.97) and urban region (P<0.001;OR:1.47;95%CI:1.31,1.64). BCVA was ≤ 20/40 in the better eye in 19 (0.32%) children. UCVA ≤ 20/40 in at least one eye was found in 2046 (34.05%) children, with undercorrected refractive error as cause in 1975 (32.9%) children. Amblyopia (BCVA ≤ 20/32) was detected in 44 (0.7%) children (11 children with bilateral amblyopia).

Conclusions: In coastal East China, about 14% of the 17-years olds were highly myopic, and 80% were myopic. Prevalence of myopia increased with older age, female gender and urban region. About 0.7% of pre-school children and school children were amblyopic.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Blindness / epidemiology
  • Blindness / etiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • China / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Refractive Errors / complications*
  • Refractive Errors / epidemiology*
  • Refractive Errors / physiopathology
  • Visual Acuity*

Grants and funding

This study was supported by Shandong Science & Technology Department (2011GGB14097, 2011GGH21835, 2012YD18081), Shandong Health Department (2011HD014), Jinan Science & Technology Bureau (201102061). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.