Aim To determine the prevalence of blinding eye disease in Western Australia using a capture and recapture methodology.
Methods Three independent lists of residents of Western Australia who were also legally blind were collated during the capture periods in 2008–9. The first list was obtained from the state-wide blind register. A second list comprised patients routinely attending hospital outpatient eye clinics over a 6-month period in 2008. The third list was patients attending ophthalmologists' routine clinical appointments over a 6-week period in 2009. Lists were compared to identify those individuals who were captured on each list and those who were recaptured by subsequent lists. Log-linear models were used to calculate the best fit and estimate the prevalence of blindness in the Western Australian population and extrapolated to a national prevalence of blindness in Australia.
Results 1771 legally blind people were identified on three separate lists. The best estimate of the prevalence of blindness in Western Australia was 3384 (95% CI 2947 to 3983) or 0.15% of the population of 2.25 million. Extrapolating to the national population (21.87 million) gave a prevalence of legal blindness of approximately 32 892 or 0.15%.
Conclusion Capture–recapture techniques can be used to determine the prevalence of blindness in whole populations. The calculated prevalence of blindness suggested that up to 30% of legally blind people may not be receiving available financial support and up to 60% were not accessing rehabilitation services.