Study: Latinos at Highest Risk for Eye Disease

New research suggests Latinos have the highest rates of eye disease in the United States. The findings, part of a recent study by the U.S. National Eye Institute, show Latinos' rates of visual impairment and blindness are higher than any other ethnic group in the nation. The research also found 34 percent of its participants, which included about 4,600 people from the Los Angeles area, had diabetes and developed diabetic retinopathy, a condition most common among patients between 40 and 59 years old.

Alarmingly, the study also found many don't realize they suffer from the most common eye maladies such as cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.

"Sixty percent of eye disease in Latinos is undiagnosed, and 82 percent of those who have glaucoma and 92 percent of those with diabetic retinopathy," said Dr. Carlos Martinez, an ophthalmologist with Eye Physicians of Long Beach, a Los Angeles area clinic that offers bilingual services. "It is difficult to treat that which patients aren't aware of, and they're unlikely to seek care if they don't know they're sick."

According to Martinez, a variety of factors are involved in Latinos having the higher rates of eye disease, including genetics, diet, and lifestyle. A lack of access to health care also may affect the rate, he said.

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