Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
PONGO AGUILA, Luis et al. Cataract blindness in people 50 years old or older in a semirural area of northern Peru. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2005, vol.17, n.5-6, pp. 387-393. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892005000500011.
OBJETIVE: To determine the prevalence of blindness and of cataract blindness in persons 50 years of age or older in Piura and Tumbes, which are two departments in northern Peru, and to describe the coverage and quality of cataract surgery services in that area, and the barriers that prevent access to those services. METHODS: Systematic sampling of persons 50 years old or older was done in Piura and Tumbes between August 2002 and March 2003, with 80 clusters of 60 people each being selected. Of the 4 800 persons chosen, 4 782 of them were examined, using a survey instrument that gathered general information on each person, the results of the visual acuity test and the lens examination, and information on cataract surgery or why that surgery had not been done. Visual acuity (VA) testing was done with a Snellen optotype with the letter "E," with sizes of 20/60 and 20/200 at distances of 6 m and 3 m, respectively, with the person using the visual correction (glasses) available. When the VA was less than 20/60 in one of the eyes, vision was tested with pinhole glasses. RESULTS: The prevalence of bilateral blindness (VA < 20/400) due to cataract, adjusted by age and sex, was 2.1% (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.7% to 2.6%). Among the 193 persons with bilateral blindness due to any cause, cataract was the cause in 104 of them (53.9%). The prevalence of blindness due to cataract or other causes increased with age and was higher in women than in men. Only 25% of the persons studied who needed cataract surgery had had that done. The prevalence of bilateral VA less than 20/200 due to unoperated cataract was 6.3% (95% CI: 5.3% to 7.3%); only 12% of the persons with that level of visual deficiency had had cataract surgery. The VA of 26% of the eyes operated on for cataract was lower than 20/200. The reasons given by persons who needed cataract surgery but who had not had it included not being able to pay for the operation (28%), lack of knowledge concerning cataracts (25%), fear of the operation (23%), and fear of completely losing their sight (17%). CONCLUSIONS: Most of the cases of blindness and of serious deficiency in visual acuity in persons 50 years old or older in Piura and Tumbes are due to uncorrected refractive defects, especially cataracts. The high prevalence of bilateral blindness due to cataracts (2.1%) could be reduced with measures that facilitate access to appropriate treatment.
Keywords : Blindness; cataract; prevalence; adult; Peru.