Aim: To assess the prevalence of severe visual impairment (SVI) and reasons for not accessing eye care services in a field practice area of a tertiary care hospital.

Study design: Cross-sectional observational study.

Materials and methods: Through a cross-sectional study using simple random sampling, a total of 1510, individuals above 18 years of age, from six rural and maternity welfare centers (RMCW) within a distance of 20 km from a tertiary hospital were approached. All participants underwent basic assessment of visual acuity, anterior segment evaluation using torch light, and answered a structured questionnaire on eye care.

Results: Of 1510 subjects, 267 had SVI (defined as visual acuity < 6/60 either in one or both eyes) with a prevalence of 17.7%. SVI was higher among men and those above 60 years of age (52.8%). Significant association was found between barriers to accessing eye care facilities and lack of knowledge to access health care (p = 0.004), lack of financial support (95% CI, p = 0.006), and social reasons (95% CI, p = 0.028). Prevalence of SVI among diabetics was 32.7% as compared to non-diabetics (OR: 2.630; 95% confidence interval: 1.864–3.712), and among hypertensives was 34.61% as compared to non-hypertensives (OR: 2.836; 95% confidence interval: 1.977–4.068).

Conclusion: In spite of being close to a tertiary care center, a prevalence of SVI in 17.7% of this population indicates a lack of knowledge regarding the importance of self-health care in subjects. This emphasizes the need to increase the awareness among the general public to access the ophthalmic health care facilities in order to improve the ocular health of the patients.