Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Prevalence of visual impairment, cataract surgery and awareness of cataract and glaucoma in Bhaktapur district of Nepal: The Bhaktapur Glaucoma Study

Suman S Thapa1*, Rosa VD Berg2, Shankar Khanal3, Indira Paudyal1, Pooja Pandey4, Nhukesh Maharjan5, Shankha N Twyana1, Govinda Paudyal5, Reeta Gurung5, Sanduk Ruit5 and Ger HMBV Rens2

Author Affiliations

1 Nepal Glaucoma Eye Clinic, Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, Kathmandu, Nepal

2 Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Central Department of Statistics, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal

4 Helen Keller International, Kathmandu, Nepal

5 Tilganga Institute of Ophthalmology, Kathmandu, Nepal

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BMC Ophthalmology 2011, 11:2  doi:10.1186/1471-2415-11-2

Published: 21 January 2011



Cataract and glaucoma are the major causes of blindness in Nepal. Bhaktapur is one of the three districts of Kathmandu valley which represents a metropolitan city with a predominantly agrarian rural periphery. This study was undertaken to determine the prevalence of visual impairment, cataract surgery and awareness of cataract and glaucoma among subjects residing in this district of Nepal.


Subjects aged 40 years and above was selected using a cluster sampling methodology and a door to door enumeration was conducted for a population based cross sectional study. During the community field work, 11499 subjects underwent a structured interview regarding awareness (heard of) and knowledge (understanding of the disease) of cataract and glaucoma. At the base hospital 4003 out of 4800 (83.39%) subjects underwent a detailed ocular examination including log MAR visual acuity, refraction, applanation tonometry, cataract grading (LOCSΙΙ), retinal examination and SITA standard perimetry when indicated.


The age-sex adjusted prevalence of blindness (best corrected <3/60) and low vision (best corrected <6/18 ≥3/60) was 0.43% (95%C.I. 0.25 - 0.68) and 3.97% (95% C.I. 3.40 - 4.60) respectively. Cataract (53.3%) was the principal cause of blindness. The leading causes of low vision were cataract (60.8%) followed by refractive error (12%). The cataract surgical coverage was 90.36% and was higher in the younger age group, females and illiterate subjects. Pseudophakia was seen in 94%. Awareness of cataract (6.7%) and glaucoma (2.4%) was very low. Among subjects who were aware, 70.4% had knowledge of cataract and 45.5% of glaucoma. Cataract was commonly known to be a 'pearl like dot' white opacity in the eye while glaucoma was known to cause blindness. Awareness remained unchanged in different age groups for cataract while for glaucoma there was an increase in awareness with age. Women were significantly less aware (odds ratio (OR): 0.63; 95%, confidence interval (CI): 0.54 - 0.74) for cataract and (OR: 0.64; 95% CI: 0.50 - 0.81) for glaucoma. Literacy was also correlated with awareness.


The low prevalence of visual impairment and the high cataract surgical coverage suggests that cataract intervention programs have been successful in Bhaktapur. Awareness and knowledge of cataract and glaucoma was very poor among this population. Eye care programs needs to be directed towards preventing visual impairment from refractive errors, screening for incurable chronic eye diseases and promoting health education in order to raise awareness on cataract and glaucoma among this population.