Prevalence and severity of xerophthalmia in Southern Malawi

James M. Tielsch, Keith P. West, Joanne Katz, Moses C. Chirambo, Larry Schwab, Gordon J. Johnson, Teferra Tizazu, Jack Swartwood, Alfred Sommer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The first population-based study of xerophthalmia in Africa was conducted in the Lower Shire River Valley of Malawi in the autumn of 1983. A total of 5,436 children under six years of age were examined by three survey teams over an eight-week period. The prevalence of active xerophthalmia was 3.9%. Rates for night blindness and active corneal disease were more than five times the World Health Organization criterion for a problem of public health importance. Xerophthalmic corneal scarring occurred at a rate of 5.9/1,000, more than 10 times the World Health Organization criterion. All cases of bilateral blindness in this age group were considered to be due to vitamin A deficiency. Given recent evidence from Asia linking even subclinical vitamin A deficiency to increased risk of mortality and morbidity, this disease is not only a leading cause of blindness in this area, but may have an important impact on child survival as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-568
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1986


  • Prevalence studies
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Xerophthalmia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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