Objective: To identify the anatomical site and underlying aetiology of severe visual impairment and blindness (SVI/BL) in children in Bangladesh.
Design: A national case series.
Methods: Children were recruited from all 64 districts in Bangladesh through multiple sources. Causes were determined and categorised using standard World Health Organization methods.
Results: 1935 SVI/BL children were recruited. The median age was 132 months, and boys accounted for 63.1% of the sample. The main site of abnormality was lens (32.5%), mainly unoperated cataract, followed by corneal pathology (26.6%) and disorders of the whole eye (13.1%). Lens-related blindness was the leading cause in boys (37.0%) compared with corneal blindness in girls (29.8%). In 593 children, visual loss was due to childhood factors, over 75% being attributed to vitamin A deficiency. Overall 1338 children (69.2%) had avoidable causes. Only 2% of the country's estimated SVI/BL children have access to education and rehabilitation services.
Conclusions: This is the first large-scale study of SVI/BL children in Bangladesh over two-thirds of whom had avoidable causes. Strategies for control are discussed.