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Causes of Vision Loss

Refractive Error

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Crude prevalence of vision loss due to refractive error, 2020

(all ages, males & females)

Source: Data from VLEG/GBD 2020 model, accessed via the IAPB Vision Atlas

Refractive error: Global summary from the VLEG study

Refractive disorders are important causes of vision loss but can be easily treated by spectacles, contact lenses, or refractive surgery. Myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism are the main causes of distance vision impairment. Near vision impairment is also the biggest cause of vision loss overall, but not included here due to the focus the causes of distance vision loss.

Conversely, the prevalence of myopia has been rapidly increasing, especially in urban areas. School eye health programs and the development of refractive services, including the provision of affordable spectacles are the main strategies to address uncorrected refractive errors. Find out more about child eye health.

The increasing emergence of myopic macular degeneration (Fricke et al., 2018) is another important cause of vision impairment which will require better estimates to enable planning and prevention strategies.


Adelson, J., Bourne, R., Briant, P., Flaxman, S., Taylor, H., Jonas, J., Abdoli, A., Abrha, W., Abualhasan, A., Abu-Gharbieh, E. and Adal, T. (2020). Causes of blindness and vision impairment in 2020 and trends over 30 years, and prevalence of avoidable blindness in relation to VISION 2020: the Right to Sight: an analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study. Lancet Global Health.

Related pages on the Vision Atlas