Prevalence of Refractive Errors among Children in Saudi Arabia: A Systemic Review

Waleed Alghamdi1, 2, *
1 Department of Optometry, College of Applied Medical Science, Qassim University, Qassim, Saudi Arabia
2 School of Optometry & Vision Science, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

© 2021 Waleed Alghamdi.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at Department of Optometry, The College of Applied Medical Sciences, Qassim University, Qassim, Saudi Arabia; Tel: +966 50322 9636; E-mail:



The aim of this review was to estimate the prevalence of refractive errors (RE) and uncorrected refractive error (URE) in school-aged children of 4 to 14 years of age in Saudi Arabia.


An extensive search was performed for peer-reviewed studies with data from the Saudi population during the past 20 years. The Cochrane Library, Pubmed, and Embase databases were used. Two independent reviewers evaluated publications and extracted the data. The quality of the studies was evaluated based on a critical appraisal tool designed for systematic reviews. The pooled prevalence of refractive error, uncorrected refractive error and different types of refractive error were estimated by using the random-effects meta-analysis.

Results and Discussion:

Eight school-based studies were included in this review. Among the overall pooled population of 12,247childern, the estimated prevalence of refractive error was 17.5% (95% CI: 11.1- 25). In the five studies that reported uncorrected refractive error (N=10,198), the pooled prevalence was 16.8% (95% CI: 11.4 – 21.3). The overall prevalence of refractive errors was very similar among boys, 16.8 (95% CI: 10.8- 24.1), and girls, 17.7% (95% CI: 10.2 – 25.9). Myopia was the most prevalent refractive error and was present in 40.8% (95% CI: 16.1 – 69.9) followed by astigmatism 29.7% (95% CI: 6.1- 61.7) and hyperopia 28.3% (95% CI: 16.9 – 41.2).


This review highlights the high prevalence of refractive errors and uncorrected refractive error among children in Saudi Arabia. More studies are required using standardised methods in different regions where there is a lack of information on UREs. It is recommended that vision screening programs of children for RE should be implemented at the community level and integrated into school health programmes in order to detect UREs and prevent amblyopia, which is one of the debilitating consequences of URE.

Keywords: Amblyopia, Hyperopia, Myopia, Refractive Errors, Visual Impairment, URE.