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Hispanics More Prone To Blindness

Hispanics More Prone To Blindness

Hispanics should get regular eye exams at least once a year especially if they are age 50 or older. A recent study by the University of Southern California s Keck School of Medicine published this summer in the journal Ophthalmology shows high rates of eye disease in Hispanic people. Often these eye conditions – like diabetic retinopathy and open-angle glaucoma – go unnoticed. The 6 357 people in the study were primarily of Mexican descent and were 40 years or older.

Researchers say the five-year study which was funded by the National Institutes of Health is the largest of its kind and it may indicate a greater need for eye care outreach to the Hispanic community. Because Hispanics have higher than average rates of eye disease they should get regular eye exams at least once a year especially if they are age 50 or older. Researchers screened participants for eye disease and diabetes and interviewed them to assess risk factors and quality of life. Overall rates of vision problems among U.S. Hispanics were high and elderly Hispanics have the highest rates of visual impairment among all other racial or ethnic groups in the world. A genetic predisposition to eye disease and a lack of sufficient eye care among many Hispanics may account for the disparity.

There are higher rates of diabetic retinopathy and other diabetic complications in the Hispanic population. According to the American Diabetes Association 2 million U.S. Hispanics age 20 or older have diabetes. The prevalence of type-two diabetes is 1.5 times higher in Hispanics than non-Hispanics.

One in four study participants had diabetes and 20 percent of them were not aware of their condition until the study results were assessed. Of those with diabetes nearly half also had some signs of diabetic retinopathy and many did not know they had an eye disease. Nearly five percent of participants had open-angle glaucoma a disease that puts pressure on the eye s optic nerve. According to data from the National Eye Institute the overall rate for people in the United States age 40 and older is about 1.86 percent.

The numbers show that many Hispanics have undiagnosed eye disease and given that the U.S. Hispanic population is expected to grow to almost 25 percent by the year 2050 this is a scary statistic. Lack of routine eye care among Hispanics is one complicating factor with glaucoma. Among participants 35 percent said they were uninsured. If there is no regular eye care elevated intraocular pressure cannot be detected and treatment cannot be provided. Currently there is no cure for glaucoma but it can be controlled with medication and surgery. If left untreated however it can lead to blindness.

If the study represents the Hispanic population at large there are an enormous number of people in danger of losing their vision prematurely and unnecessarily. Here in Canada there is some relief because of our national health care; but some provinces like British Columbia and Ontario have de-listed eye examinations. The future is looking a little darker for those who cannot afford their own eye care.

“Hispanic” is defined as “a person of Mexican Puerto Rican Cuban Central or South American or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”

With files from www.futureoptometrist.com



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