Glaucoma leading cause of blindness in Hispanics

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among U.S. Hispanics, while cataracts are the leading cause of visual impairment, according to results of a national study led by Johns Hopkins researchers.

The findings, published in the April issue of the journal Ophthalmology, showed the prevalence of blindness among U.S. Hispanics to be 0.3 percent. This figure is somewhat high for developed countries, the researchers note. In Africa, for example, 1 percent of the population is blind (in Tanzania, 5 percent). Open-angle glaucoma was the most common cause of blindness in Hispanics. Cataract, age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy also were common.

Hispanics comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population and are the fastest growing ethnic minority in the country, the studies note. It is projected that the number of Hispanics age 55 and older will more than double from 3.5 million in 2000 to 11.4 million in 2025.

Cataract was the most common cause of visual impairment, accounting for 47 percent of all problems. Age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy accounted for 14 percent and 13 percent of problems, respectively. Open-angle glaucoma was the fourth most common cause, affecting women exclusively.

An earlier study, published in the March issue of the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, found that nearly 75 percent of decreased vision among Hispanics could be corrected by prescription eyeglasses.

"Clearly, getting access to vision care is a real problem for this community," says Sheila K. West, Ph.D., principal investigator of both studies and professor of ophthalmology at Hopkins' Wilmer Eye Institute. "The population we studied, in Arizona, was largely low income and had no access to health insurance, and we believe the same barriers to care exist in many other areas across the country. We must increase vision screening and access to health care services for them."


Contact: Karen Blum
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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