Assessment of visual status of the Aeta, a hunter-gatherer population of the Philippines (an AOS thesis).
PURPOSE: A screening study was performed to assess levels of visual impairment and blindness among a representative sample of older members of the Aeta, an indigenous hunter-gatherer population living on the island of Luzon in the Philippines. METHODS: Unrelated older Aeta couples were randomly invited to participate in a visual screening study. All consented individuals had ocular history, medical history, complete ophthalmic examination, height, weight, and blood pressure taken. RESULTS: A total of 225 individuals were screened from 4 villages. Visual acuity, both uncorrected and pinhole corrected, was significantly worse among older vs younger age-groups for women, men, and when combined (P < .001). Visual impairment was present in 48% of uncorrected and 43% of pinhole corrected eyes in the oldest age-group. Six percent of the screened population was bilaterally blind. The major causes of blindness were readily treatable. The most common etiologies as a proportion of blind eyes were cataract (66%), refractive error (20%), and trauma (7%). No cases of primary open-angle, primary angle-closure, or exfoliation glaucoma were observed in this population. DISCUSSION: Visual impairment and blindness were common in the Aeta population. Primary forms of glaucoma, a major cause of blindness found in most population-based studies, were not observed. The absence of primary glaucoma in this population may reflect random sampling error. However, based on similar findings in the Australian Aborigine, this raises the possibility that these two similar populations may share genetic and/or environmental factors that are protective for glaucoma..
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