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Ophthalmic and visual profile of guide dog owners in Scotland
  1. K Refsona,
  2. A J Jacksona,
  3. A E Dusoirb,
  4. D B Archera
  1. aRoyal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, Queens University, Belfast, bUniversity of Ulster, Jordanstown, Northern Ireland
  1. K Refson, Low Vision Unit, Ophthalmology Directorate, Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast BT12 6BA.


BACKGROUND/AIMS Out of an estimated 90 000 visually impaired people in Scotland, 509 make use of a guide dog. Initial research in Northern Ireland suggests that the ophthalmic profile of guide dog owners (GDOs) is highly specific. The aim of this study was to compare the ophthalmic and visual characteristics of Scottish GDOs with other groups of visually impaired people.

METHODS A random sample of GDOs from central and northern Scotland (n=82) underwent a detailed assessment of residual vision (distance and near acuity, visual fields, contrast, and glare sensitivity). Comparative data were obtained from two populations of visually impaired non-GDOs—one group attending hospital ophthalmic and low vision clinics (n=50) the other social services rehabilitation clients (n=35). All participants completed a questionnaire to elicit ophthalmic history, age, and registration details.

RESULTS GDOs were found to be significantly younger and more profoundly visually impaired than non-GDOs. The main causes of visual impairment were retinitis pigmentosa (23%), optic atrophy (15%), and retinopathy of prematurity (7%). Ninety nine per cent of GDOs were registered blind and had been visually impaired for an average of 39 years. Only 31% were totally blind.

CONCLUSION GDOs represent a unique minority of the visually impaired population. Epidemiological registration trends would suggest that the numbers of young profoundly visually impaired people are unlikely to increase relative to their elderly counterparts. This has implications on the future demand for guide dog ownership.

  • ophthalmic profile
  • visual profile
  • guide dog owners
  • Scotland

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