Eye disease in multibacillary leprosy patients at the time of their leprosy diagnosis: findings from the Longitudinal Study of Ocular Leprosy (LOSOL) in India, the Philippines and Ethiopia.
Existing prevalence surveys do not provide adequate information to estimate the magnitude of ocular pathology or vision loss in leprosy patients. We sought to determine the prevalence of ocular findings and related risk factors in leprosy patients at the time of their disease diagnosis. We also sought to determine if there were geographic differences and whether these were due to different demographic characteristics of the populations. The study was undertaken at Schieffelin Leprosy Research & Training Centre (Karigiri, India), Leonard Wood Memorial Leprosy Institute (Cebu, Philippines), and (for 3 years only) ALERT (Addis Ababa, Ethiopia). Newly diagnosed multibacillary (MB) leprosy patients as well as MB cases relapsed after dapsone monotherapy were eligible for enrollment. In each study site, the target population was 300. Standardized examinations were conducted between 1991 and 1998. Patient enrollment included 301 patients in Karigiri, 289 patients in Cebu, and 101 patients in Addis Ababa. The age-adjusted prevalence of blindness (< 6/60 in the better eye) and visual impairment (6/24-6/60) was 2.8% and 5.2%, respectively. Lagophthalmos and leprosy related uveal changes were detected in 3.3% (95% CI 2.0-4.7%) and 4.1% (95% CI 2.4-5.7) of patients, respectively. Overall, 11% (95% CI 8.5-13.2%) of newly enrolled MB patients had potentially blinding leprosy related ocular pathology. Lagophthalmos was associated with increasing age, a short duration between onset and diagnosis, and a previous reaction involving the face. Uveal conditions were associated with increasing age. Overall, eye disease was more common in Indian and Ethiopian patients compared to Filipino patients; however, differences were not significant when controlling for age and clinical (non-ocular) factors. Patients with potentially blinding leprosy related pathology were over three times more likely to have other (hand and foot) disabilities than patients without pathology. Differences in the prevalence of blindness and potentially blinding leprosy related ocular pathology between the sites could be accounted for by the differences in age and other clinical factors of the patients at the different sites. Findings suggest that, even in the face of active leprosy control efforts, around 11% of patients will have potentially blinding pathology at the time of their diagnosis and 2.8% will be blind. If those patients with lagophthalmos or blindness are considered appropriate for referral for more detailed assessment, approximately 4% of newly diagnosed leprosy patients will require active follow-up for eye care; including those with reaction involving the face will result in 9.4% of patients requiring active follow-up. These people are likely to be older, with a reaction involving the face, and/or with other disabilities than those not requiring active follow-up.