UA Study Shows Hispanics at High Risk
For Undiagnosed Retinopathy and Glaucoma
Jan. 23, 2002
Contact: Jo Marie Gellerman, (520) 626-7301
A first-ever study of the prevalence and causes of eye disease among Mexican-Americans found that Hispanics over the age of 40 more likely to have undiagnosed diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma than other ethnic groups.
Researchers at University of Arizona Department of Ophthalmology surveyed and evaluated vision problems, such as diabetic retinopathy (disease of the retina), cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, among 4,774 Hispanics in Nogales and Tucson, Ariz. Results of the study, which was done in collaboration with the Dana Center for Preventive Eye Disease at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, were published in the July issue of Diabetes Care, and in the December issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.
The study showed the incidence of diabetes among this population was 22 percent, almost twice that of non-Hispanics, and 15 percent of those with diabetes did not know that they had the disease. Of the 15 percent who were newly diagnosed with diabetes, 32 percent had diabetic retinopathy, a potentially blinding eye complication of diabetes. In addition, the incidence of glaucoma ranged from 0.5 percent in those ages 41 to 49 to more than 12 percent in ages 80 and older. Only 36 percent of those affected were aware of their disease, compared with an estimated 50 to 70 percent of other Americans with the disease.
The three-year study, funded by a $3 million grant from the National Eye Institute, was called Proyecto VER (Project Vision, Evaluation, Research). Participants randomly were selected based on 1990 census information. After filling out a questionnaire, participants underwent a one-time comprehensive eye evaluation. Those who required follow-up care were referred to an ophthalmologist.
"The finding that 15 percent of diabetic retinopathy cases and 64 percent of glaucoma cases in this community were unknown before our survey indicates just how important it is to identify and control potentially blinding diseases among this population," says Robert Snyder, MD, PhD, professor and head of the UA Department of Ophthalmology and one of the study's investigators.
"In the United States, the Mexican-American population is the second largest minority group, and if current trends continue, will become the largest minority group during this century. If the incidence of blindness among Hispanics could be reduced, it could save the sight of hundreds of thousands of people and millions of dollars in health care costs."