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Researchers report that the overall prevalence of glaucoma in Mexican-Americans is between reported rates for Blacks and Whites. In addition, with increasing age, the rate of glaucoma rises more quickly in Mexican-Americans than previously thought. These findings are reported in the December 2001 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology.
Older age is a significant risk factor for glaucoma in Mexican-Americans; the prevalence of open-angle glaucoma rises rapidly after age 65 and eventually equals the reported rates in Blacks. No association was found between glaucoma and diabetes, hypertension, or gender.
Glaucoma affects about three million Americans—half of whom don't know they have it.1 Prevalence figures for glaucoma in Blacks and Whites have been widely reported in scientific journals. Among Blacks in the United States, open-angle glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible visual loss; glaucoma is four to five times more likely to develop in Blacks than Whites.
In the study—called Proyecto VER (Vision Evaluation and Research)—62 percent of the population studied who were diagnosed with glaucoma did not know they had glaucoma; this figure compares with a 50 percent undiagnosed rate in other ethnic groups. According to the findings, this discrepancy most likely is related to a lack of access to preventative health services. This lack of health access is, in part, caused by "the cost of health care and the distrust of the majority culture," as well as a lack of health insurance and lower economic status.
This study is the first to closely examine the prevalence of glaucoma in Mexican-Americans over age 40. It was funded by the National Eye Institute and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, components of the Federal government's National Institutes of Health.