To establish the prevalence of self-reported vision impairment (VI) in Southwest Cameroon and describe associated care-seeking practices, functional limitations and economic hardships.
A three-stage clustered sampling household community-based survey.
The Southwest region of Cameroon.
8046 individuals of all ages residing in the Southwest region of Cameroon.
Prevalence of self-reported VI, onset of vision loss, care-seeking practices, diagnosis and treatment, functional limitations, economic hardships on household, beliefs about surgical treatability of blindness and barriers to surgical care.
The estimated prevalence of self-reported VI in Southwest Cameroon was 0.87% (95% CI 0.62 to 1.21). Among participants aged ≥40 years, the prevalence increased to 2.61% (95% CI 1.74 to 3.90). Less than a quarter of affected participants reported difficulty working (20.5%) or trouble going to school (12.0%) as a result of their VI. Yet, over half (52%, n=43) of affected households experienced significant economic hardships due to the VI. Residing in an urban setting (aOR 1.16, 95% CI 1.04 to 1.30) and belonging to a higher socioeconomic status (aOR 1.13, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.26) were factors associated with the belief that certain types of blindness were surgically reversible. Formal care was not sought by 16.3% (n=8) of affected participants. Cataracts was the leading diagnosis among participants who did seek formal care (43.2%, n=16), although 93.8% of these cases were not surgically treated, primarily due to a lack of perceived need.
The prevalence of individuals who report vision impairment in Southwest Cameroon is considerably lower than prior published estimates based on visual physical examinations. Routine community-level screening and cost financing schemes could improve detection of pre-clinical eye disease and the utilisation of surgical care. It could also pre-empt disability and economic hardships associated with advanced VI in the region.

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