Purpose To determine the rate of ocular trauma in a rural population of southern India and its impact on vision impairment and blindness. Methods A population-based cross-sectional study of 5150 persons 40 years or older in a randomly chosen rural population of 3 districts of southern India. Prospective information on trauma, type and agent of injury, setting of injury, and details of treatment sought for the last episode was recorded with questionnaires after face-to-face interviews. All interviewed subjects underwent a comprehensive ocular examination, including vision estimations, slit-lamp biomicroscopy examinations, and dilated posterior segment examinations. Results We elicited a history of ocular trauma in either eye from 229 (4.5%) persons, including 21 (0.4%) persons with bilateral ocular trauma. Blunt injuries (n = 124; 54.9%) were the major cause for trauma reported in this population. The most common setting where the ocular trauma occurred was during agricultural labor (n = 107; 46.9%). Nearly three quarters (n = 170; 74.2%) of those reporting ocular trauma sought treatment from an eye specialist (n = 104; 57.8%) and one fifth (n = 37; 20.6%) from a traditional healer. The age-adjusted (adjusted to the population estimates for India for the year 2000) prevalence for blindness in any eye caused by trauma was 0.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.4-1.1). The odds ratios (OR) for trauma were higher for males (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.6-3.0) and laborers (OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.2-2.4) and lower for literates (OR, 0.7; 95% CI, 0.5- 0.9). Seeking treatment from a traditional eye healer for trauma was not associated with vision impairment (OR, 1.0; 95% CI, 0.3-3.2) or with blindness (OR, 3.4; 95% CI, 0.2-56.5). Conclusions Eye care programs may need to consider ocular trauma as a priority in this population, because the lifetime prevalence of ocular trauma is higher than that reported for glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, or diabetic retinopathy from this population. Simple measures such as education regarding the use of protective eyewear could possibly significantly decrease this preventable cause of visual disability.
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