Evaluation of screening schemes for eye disease in a primary care setting

Fang Wang, James M. Tielsch, Daniel E. Ford, Harry A. Quigley, Paul K. Whelton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: Screening in a primary care setting could be an effective method for detection of eye disease. This study was designed to evaluate a questionnaire and a battery of tests for their performance in eye disease screening at a primary care clinic. Methods: 405 patients aged 40 years or older were interviewed and received a comprehensive eye examination including visual acuity and visual field testing, tonometry, slit-lamp examination, dilated fundus examination and photography. Sensitivity and specificity for the identification of eye disease were calculated for each test and various combinations of tests. Results: A questionnaire-based algorithm for detection of overall eye disease was sufficiently sensitive (90%) but less specific (44%) than an ideal screening test. Distance visual acuity with presenting correction of ≤ 20/40 had a sensitivity of 61% and specificity of 72%. A dilated fundus examination had a sensitivity of 79% and specificity of 82%. In screening for glaucoma, tonometry was ineffective (sensitivity = 27% and specificity = 96%), while visual field testing by suprathreshold screening had a sensitivity of 70% and specificity of 67%. Among a variety of combinations, a two-stage strategy with the questionnaire as a first-stage and visual acuity and ophthalmoscopy as second-stage tests provided the best balance of sensitivity (83%) and specificity (76%). CONCLUSION: Among currently available ophthalmic tests, an eye examination including a thorough fundus examination is critical in detection of eye disease. A five-item questionnaire may be useful to identify patients at high risk in primary care practice. More effective tests are needed to improve performance of eye disease screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-82
Number of pages14
JournalOphthalmic Epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998


  • Eye disease
  • Opthalmoscopy
  • Primary care
  • Questionnaire
  • Screening
  • Visual acuity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Ophthalmology


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