Background: A national eye survey was conducted in 1996 to determine the prevalence of blindness and low vision and their major causes among the Malaysian population of all ages.
Methods: A stratified two stage cluster sampling design was used to randomly select primary and secondary sampling units. Interviews, visual acuity tests, and eye examinations on all individuals in the sampled households were performed. Estimates were weighted by factors adjusting for selection probability, non-response, and sampling coverage.
Results: The overall response rate was 69% (that is, living quarters response rate was 72.8% and household response rate was 95.1%). The age adjusted prevalence of bilateral blindness and low vision was 0.29% (95% CI 0.19 to 0.39%), and 2.44% (95% CI 2.18 to 2.69%) respectively. Females had a higher age adjusted prevalence of low vision compared to males. There was no significant difference in the prevalence of bilateral low vision and blindness among the four ethnic groups, and urban and rural residents. Cataract was the leading cause of blindness (39%) followed by retinal diseases (24%). Uncorrected refractive errors (48%) and cataract (36%) were the major causes of low vision.
Conclusion: Malaysia has blindness and visual impairment rates that are comparable with other countries in the South East Asia region. However, cataract and uncorrected refractive errors, though readily treatable, are still the leading causes of blindness, suggesting the need for an evaluation on accessibility and availability of eye care services and barriers to eye care utilisation in the country.