This cross sectional study was undertaken to identify the major causes of childhood severe visual impairment/blindness (SVI/BL) among students in schools for the blind in south eastern Nigeria with a view to offering treatment to those with remediable blindness. 142 students attending three schools for the blind in the study area were interviewed and examined using the World Health Organization programme for prevention of blindness (WHO/PBL) childhood blindness proforma. By anatomical classification, the major causes of SVI/BL identified in the children (aged 15 years or less) were lesions of the lens (30.4%), corneal lesions (21.7%), whole globe lesions (mainly phthisis bulbi) (17.4%), and glaucoma/buphthalmos (10.9%). For the young adults (more than 15 years) these lesions accounted for 31.9%, 21.3%, 23.4%, and 8.5% of SVI/BL, respectively. For all the students, the commonest single diagnoses were cataract (23.5%) and corneal scarring (21.4%), of which 86.7% were caused by measles. By aetiological classification, childhood factors (38.6%) constituted the major cause of blindness: 37.0% in the children and 39.4% in the young adults. In 74.5% of all the students, blindness was considered avoidable. A high proportion of childhood blindness in schools for the blind in south eastern Nigeria is avoidable. Development of paediatric ophthalmology in Nigeria to manage childhood cataract and glaucoma is advocated.
British Journal of Ophthalmology 02/2003; 87(1):20-3. DOI:10.1136/bjo.87.1.20