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Refractive error and visual impairment in Ireland schoolchildren
  1. Siofra Christine Harrington1,
  2. Jim Stack2,
  3. Kathryn Saunders3,
  4. Veronica O’Dwyer4
  1. 1 School of Physics and Clinical and Optometric Sciences, College of Science and Health, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2 Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland
  3. 3 School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland
  4. 4 School of Physics and Clinical and Optometric Sciences, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Siofra Christine Harrington, School of Physics and Clinical and Optometric Sciences, College of Science and Health, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin 2, D08 X622, Ireland; siofra.harrington{at}dit.ie

Abstract

Aim To report refractive error prevalence and visual impairment in Republic of Ireland (henceforth 'Ireland') schoolchildren.

Methods The Ireland Eye Study examined 1626 participants (881 boys, 745 girls) in two age groups, 6–7 years (728) and 12–13 years (898), in Ireland between June 2016 and January 2018. Participating schools were selected by stratified random sampling, representing a mix of school type (primary/postprimary), location (urban/rural) and socioeconomic status (disadvantaged/advantaged). Examination included monocular logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution (logMAR) presenting visual acuity (with spectacles if worn) and cycloplegic autorefraction (1% Cyclopentolate Hydrochloride). Parents completed a questionnaire to ascertain participants’ lifestyle.

Results The prevalence of myopia (spherical equivalent refraction (SER): ≤−0.50 D), hyperopia (SER: ≥+2.00 D) and astigmatism (≤−1.00 DC) among participants aged 6–7 years old was 3.3%, 25% and 19.2%, respectively, and among participants aged 12–13 years old was 19.9%, 8.9% and 15.9%, respectively. Astigmatic axes were predominately with-the-rule. The prevalence of ‘better eye’ presenting visual impairment (≥0.3 logMAR, with spectacles, if worn) was 3.7% among younger and 3.4% among older participants. Participants in minority groups (Traveller and non-white) were significantly more likely to present with presenting visual impairment in the ‘better eye’.

Conclusions The Ireland Eye Study is the first population-based study to report on refractive error prevalence and visual impairment in Ireland. Myopia prevalence is similar to comparable studies of white European children, but the levels of presenting visual impairment are markedly higher than those reported for children living in Northern Ireland, suggesting barriers exist in accessing eye care.

  • refractive error
  • visual impairment
  • myopia
  • hyperopia
  • schoolchildren
  • prevalence
  • Ireland

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Footnotes

  • Contributors All authors (SCH, JS, KS and VO’D) contributed to the conception and design of this work. All authors were involved in drafting, critically reviewing and approval of the final version to be published.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Dublin Institute of Technology Fiosraigh grant, the Opticians Board and the Association of Optometrists Ireland.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval Study approval was obtained from the Dublin Institute of Technology Ethics Committee. This research was conducted under the tenets of the Helsinki Declaration of Human Studies.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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