The Tromsø Eye Study: study design, methodology and results on visual acuity and refractive errors

Geir Bertelsen, Maja G Erke, Therese von Hanno, Ellisiv B Mathiesen, Tunde Peto, Anne K Sjølie, Inger Njølstad

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18 Citations (Scopus)


PURPOSE: To describe the study design and methodology of the Tromsø Eye Study (TES), and to describe visual acuity and refractive error in the study population.

METHODS: The Tromsø Eye Study is a sub-study of the Tromsø Study, a population-based multipurpose longitudinal study in the municipality of Tromsø, Norway. The Tromsø Eye Study was a part of the sixth survey of the Tromsø Study, conducted from October 2007 through December 2008. The eye examination included information on self-reported eye diseases, assessment of visual acuity and refractive errors, retinal photography and optical coherence tomography. Retinal images were graded for diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration, and with computer-assisted measurements of arteriolar and venular diameters. In addition, TES researchers have access to the large comprehensive Tromsø Study database including physical examination results, carotid artery ultrasound, electrocardiogram, bone densitometry, cognitive tests, questionnaires, DNA, blood and urine samples and more from the present and the five previous surveys.

RESULTS: Visual acuity was assessed in 6459 subjects and refraction in 6566 subjects aged 38-87 years. Snellen visual acuity <20/60 was found in 1.2% (95% CI 0.95-1.5) of the participants and there was no gender difference. Visual impairment increased with age, and in the age group 80-87 years, the overall visual acuity <20/60 was 7.3% (95% CI 3.3-11.2). Spherical equivalent showed an increasing trend with age and there was no clinically relevant difference between men and women. Retinal photography was performed in 6540 subjects.

CONCLUSION: Prevalence of visual impairment was low but increased with age. There was a trend towards hyperopia with age and no clinically relevant difference in refraction between the sexes. TES aims to provide epidemiological research on several eye and eye-related diseases. Owing to a comprehensive data collection, it has the opportunity to explore issues related to environmental factors, cognition and their interaction with diseases in this community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-42
Number of pages8
JournalActa Ophthalmologica
Issue number7
Early online date11 Sep 2012
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Biomedical Research
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Epidemiologic Studies
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Refractive Errors
  • Research Design
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence
  • Vision Disorders
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visually Impaired Persons
  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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