Original articles

Ecological determinants of blindness in Nigeria: The Nigeria National Blindness and Visual Impairment Survey

M M Rabiu, Murthy V S Gudlavalleti, C E Gilbert, Selvaraj Sivasubramaniam, Fatima Kyari, Tafida Abubakar


Objective. To determine the prevalence and causes of visual loss in different ecological zones across Nigeria.
Methods. A population-based survey using multi-stage, stratified, cluster random sampling with probability proportional to size comprising a nationally representative sample of adults aged ≥40 years from six ecological zones.
Outcome measures. Distance vision was measured using reduced logMAR charts. Clinical examination included basic eye examination for all respondents and a detailed examination including visual fields, gonioscopy and fundus photography for those who were visually impaired or blind (i.e. presenting vision <20/40 in the better eye). A principal cause of visual loss was assigned to all respondents with presenting vision <20/40 in the better eye.
Results. A total of 15 122 persons aged ≥40 years were enumerated, 13 599 (89.9%) of whom were examined. The prevalence of blindness varied according to ecological zone, being highest in the Sahel region (6.6%; 95% confidence interval (CI) 4.2 - 10.4) and lowest in the rain forest region (3.23%; 95% CI 2.6 - 3.9). Age/gender-adjusted analyses showed that risk of blindness was highest in Sahel (odds ratio (OR) 3.4; 95% CI 2.1 - 5.8). More than 80% of blindness in all ecological regions was avoidable. Trachoma was a significant cause only in the Sudan savannah belt. The prevalence of all major blinding conditions was highest in the Sahel.
Conclusions. The findings of this national survey may be applicable to other countries in West and Central Africa that share similar ecological zones. Onchocerciasis and trachoma are not major causes of blindness in Nigeria, possibly reflecting successful control efforts for both these neglected tropical diseases.

Authors' affiliations

M M Rabiu, National Eye Centre, Kaduna

Murthy V S Gudlavalleti, London School of Hygiene Tropical Medicine

C E Gilbert, London School Hygiene Tropical Medicine

Selvaraj Sivasubramaniam, LondonSchool Hygiene Tropical Medicine

Fatima Kyari, National Eye Centre, Kaduna

Tafida Abubakar, Ministry of Health, Dutse, Jigawa

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Blindness; Ecology; Nigeria; Prevalence; Survey

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2011;101(1):53-58.

Article History

Date submitted: 2010-02-25
Date published: 2011-01-06

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