The prevalence of uncorrected refractive errors in underserved rural areas
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© 2017 Iranian Society of Ophthalmology. Purpose: To determine the prevalence of uncorrected refractive errors, need for spectacles, and the determinants of unmet need in underserved rural areas of Iran. Methods: In a cross-sectional study, multistage cluster sampling was done in 2 underserved rural areas of Iran. Then, all subjects underwent vision testing and ophthalmic examinations including the measurement of uncorrected visual acuity (UCVA), best corrected visual acuity, visual acuity with current spectacles, auto-refraction, retinoscopy, and subjective refraction. Need for spectacles was defined as UCVA worse than 20/40 in the better eye that could be corrected to better than 20/40 with suitable spectacles. Results: Of the 3851 selected individuals, 3314 participated in the study. Among participants, 18.94% [95% confidence intervals (CI): 13.48-24.39] needed spectacles and 11.23% (95% CI: 7.57-14.89) had an unmet need. The prevalence of need for spectacles was 46.8% and 23.8% in myopic and hyperopic participants, respectively. The prevalence of unmet need was 27% in myopic, 15.8% in hyperopic, and 25.46% in astigmatic participants. Multiple logistic regression showed that education and type of refractive errors were associated with uncorrected refractive errors; the odds of uncorrected refractive errors were highest in illiterate participants, and the odds of unmet need were 12.13, 5.1, and 4.92 times higher in myopic, hyperopic and astigmatic participants as compared with emmetropic individuals. Conclusion: The prevalence of uncorrected refractive errors was rather high in our study. Since rural areas have less access to health care facilities, special attention to the correction of refractive errors in these areas, especially with inexpensive methods like spectacles, can prevent a major proportion of visual impairment.