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01.12.2017 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

BMC Ophthalmology 1/2017

Retrospective data on causes of childhood vision impairment in Eritrea

BMC Ophthalmology > Ausgabe 1/2017
Rajendra Gyawali, Bharat Kumar Bhayal, Rabindra Adhikary, Arjun Shrestha, Rabindra Prasad Sah



Proper information on causes of childhood vision loss is essential in developing appropriate strategies and programs to address such causes. This study aimed at identifying the causes of vision loss in children attending the national referral eye hospital with the only pediatric ophthalmology service in Eritrea.


A retrospective data review was conducted for all the children (< 16 years of age) who attended Berhan Aiyni National Referral Eye Hospital in five years period from January 2011 to December 2015. Causes of vision loss for children with vision impairment (recorded visual acuity less than 6/18 for distance in the better eye) was classified by the anatomical site affected and by underlying etiology based on the timing of the insult and causal factor.


The medical record cards of 22,509 children were reviewed, of whom 249 (1.1%) were visually impaired. The mean age of the participants was 7.82 ± 5.43 years (range: one month to 16 years) and male to female ratio was 1:0.65. The leading causes of vision loss were cataract (19.7%), corneal scars (15.7%), refractive error and amblyopia (12.1%), optic atrophy (6.4%), phthisis bulbi (6.4%), aphakia (5.6%) and glaucoma (5.2%). Childhood factors including trauma were the leading causes identified (34.5%) whereas other causes included hereditary factors (4%), intrauterine factors (2.0%) and perinatal factors (4.4%). In 55.0% of the children, the underlying etiology could not be attributed. Over two-thirds (69.9%) of vision loss was potentially avoidable in nature.


This study explored the causes of vision loss in Eritrean children using hospital based data. Cataract corneal opacities, refractive error and amblyopia, globe damage due to trauma, infection and nutritional deficiency, retinal disorders, and other congenital abnormalities were the leading causes of childhood vision impairment in children attending the tertiary eye hospital in Eritrea. As majority of the causes of vision loss was due to avoidable causes, we recommended primary level public health strategies to prevent ocular injuries, vitamin A deficiency, perinatal infections and retinopathy of prematurity as well as specialist pediatric eye care facilities for cataract, refractive errors, glaucoma and rehabilitative services to address childhood vision loss in Eritrea.
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