• World sight day : Refractive error afflicting 21 pc of urban schoolkids: Study

Kathmandu, October 11:

Twenty-one per cent students of private schools are suffering from refractive error, one of the major causes behind amblyopia and low vision in later life, according to the study titled ‘Refractive error and visual impairment in schoolchildren of the Kathmandu Valley’ conducted by the Nepal Netra Jyoti Sangh (NNJS). The study, which was conducted in 130 clusters in 43 private “A grade schools” with students from grades 5 to 9, showed 37 students were found with amblyopia out of 4000 refractive error cases, while 21 per cent of the respondents had refractive error. Most often amblyopia (also known as lazy eye) results from either a misalignment of eyes or a difference in image quality between two eyes.

Findings of the Mechi Study showed 2.1 per cent refractive error cases. “The reason behind higher refractive error cases among urban people is that they spend too much time in front of computer and TV and have heavy workloads, said Yudda Dhoj Sapokota of NNJS.

It is estimated that 200,000 adult and 25,000 children in Nepal are in need of services provided for low vision, of which 40 per cent are caused due to refractive error. Refractive error can be cured by 40 per cent by simple pair of glasses, 33 per cent by magnifying devices and 3 to 4 per cent by electronic devices.

Prevalence of refractive error is higher in the students of upper grade. As per the study, 24.8 per cent refractive error cases were found in the students of 14 years while it was 24.2 in 13-year-olds, 20.2 per cent in 12-year-olds and 14.5 per cent in 10-year olds.

Extreme cases of 6/60 vision, who cannot count the finger in seven metres, too were found. Sixty-seven per cent of children who were prescribed glasses were found not wearing them in follow-ups conducted six months later. Childhood blindness, refractive error, ambloypia, cataract and vitamin A deficiency are common eye diseases.

Dr DB Karki, medical director at Nepal Eye Hospital, said after a certain period of time our eyes might become useless if refractive error is not corrected on time. Arjun Bahadur Singh, spokesperson, Health Ministry, said the government was monitoring programmes held by NGOs. Ironically, the apex body for eye care, which is chaired by health secretary, met twice in the last three years. Still the government is confident in achieving the VISION 2020 without holding any concrete programmes for eye care.