Blind World

Latinos experience high rates of eye disease.

August 9, 2004.
American Academy of Ophthalmology.

SAN FRANCISCO - Latinos have high prevalence rates of visual impairment and blindness, and those who are older, unemployed, divorced or widowed, or have diabetes are more likely to be visually impaired. This is the conclusion of a multi-part study appearing in the June through August issues of Ophthalmology, the clinical journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Eye M.D. Association. The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES) is a population-based prevalence study of eye disease in 6,357 Latinos (primarily Mexican-Americans) aged 40 years and older in La Puente, Los Angeles County, California.

Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, associate professor of ophthalmology and preventive medicine at the Doheny Eye Institute at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, and lead author of the study, said, "These results suggest the importance of developing targeted programs aimed at Latinos for evaluation and treatment of eye diseases."

Some of the major findings are:

The prevalence of open-angle glaucoma is comparable to that of African-Americans: more than 75 percent of Latinos with open-angle glaucoma were unaware of their disease. Almost one of every two Latinos with diabetes has diabetic retinopathy. The longer they have had diabetes, the higher the prevalence of retinopathy. Latinos have high prevalence rates of early age-related macular degeneration, but not of advanced age-related macular degeneration. One in five Latinos has cataracts. Fifty percent of those with more than one type of cataract are visually impaired. "This study is very helpful because there is a huge health problem in the Mexican-American population that needs to be addressed," said Academy spokesperson Jose Pulido, MD, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "However, we cannot assume the results of this study apply to all Latinos, since Mexican-Americans are of Hispanic and American Indian descents, and this may be different than a Caribbean population, which would be of more Hispanic and African descents. Additional studies looking at the different Latino populations would be helpful."

End of article.

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