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Blacks at greater risk for developing cataracts

SAN FRANCISCO For the first time, a nine-year population study has demonstrated that persons of African descent have nearly twice the incidence of cataracts than Caucasians. In addition, the risk of a certain type of cataract was more than three times higher in blacks than in whites. These are the major findings of a study appearing in the March 2004 issue of Ophthalmology, the clinical journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the Eye M.D. Association.

After a follow-up period of nine years, nearly 3,000 participants of the Barbados Eye Studies were examined for incidence and progression of cataracts. A cataract is an opacity or cloudiness that develops in the crystalline lens of the eye. Overall, cataracts developed 1.8 times more frequently in the black than in the white participants. Further, the incidence of one particular type of cataract, cortical cataract, was more than three times greater in blacks than in whites.

M. Cristina Leske, MD, MPH, first author of the Stony Brook University-led study, said, "The three-fold risk of cortical cataracts in the black population, documented after careful follow-up, is a new finding. The increased risk could be related to a high frequency of diabetes, hypertension and abdominal obesity, which have been previously identified as risk factors for this type of cataract. This study highlights the serious public health problem of cataract, especially affecting black populations. To prevent visual loss due to cataract, cataract surgery should be provided when needed."

According to the National Eye Institute and Prevent Blindness America, "cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the world, and affects nearly 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older." Even though cataract surgery is the most successful ophthalmic procedure, cataracts still cause a substantial amount of visual impairment in the United States and throughout the world. This is especially true for people over the age of 65 who
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Contact: Media Relations
media@aao.org
415-561-8534
American Academy of Ophthalmology
1-Mar-2004


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