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Visual function and quality of life in adolescents with visual impairment: a case study of the Arthur Blaxall School in Pietermaritzburg.

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Background: Visual impairment (VI) may affect the lives of children, adolescents and adults although the effects of VI on the former two groups may be taken for granted as they account for less than half the population affected by VI. Affected children and adolescents may endure a lifetime of vision related difficulties that may affect their education, social interactions and possible future employment. Aim: To investigate visual function and quality of life (QoL) in adolescents with VI at the Arthur Blaxall School in Pietermaritzburg. Methods: This study followed a descriptive case study research design. Students registered at Arthur Blaxall School aged 10 years to 19 years were recruited using convenience sampling. Visual function was quantified by distance visual acuity (VA) and refractive error, contrast sensitivity, colour vision and central visual field. The QoL was assessed with the Cardiff Visual Ability Questionnaire for Children (CVAQC). Data were analysed using differential and inferential statistics. Results: The sample consisted of 70 participants with a mean age of 13.83 ± 2.28 years. The most common cause of VI was oculocutaneous albinism (OCA) followed by posterior segment disorders. The mean best-corrected VA ranged from 0.79 ± 0.16 logMAR to 0.91 ± 0.22 logMAR in the right, left and both eyes. Only 16 participants presented with spectacles and an additional 18 participants required spectacles following refraction. More than 40% of participants had moderate loss of contrast sensitivity in each eye. The majority of participants did not have any colour vision or central visual field defects. The mean visual ability score was −0.27 ± 0.74 log units, and the most difficult tasks were reading smallest print in textbooks and the board in the classroom for near and distance respectively. Participants with OCA had the best monocular best-corrected VA and contrast sensitivity. The most common colour vision defects among participants with anterior and posterior segment disorders were tritan and deutan colour vision defects respectively. Participants with anterior segment disorders had the poorest QoL while those with OCA had the best QoL. Conclusion: The results of this study showed that visual function varied among adolescents with VI. Furthermore, both visual function and QoL differed between each of the main causes of VI.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.