Healthy Vision Month
George* is a 54-year-old African American who lives in Michigan. He has worked at a local factory since his early 20s. When he crosses the street, he has begun to notice that he does not see cars coming from his periphery unless he turns his head toward oncoming traffic. Other than problems with his blood pressure, he is in very good health.
Glaucoma runs in George’s family. He knows that he should visit his eye doctor, but because he is still able to carry out his day to day tasks, he feels no need to go right now. He has other priorities for his family. People who are at high risk for glaucoma should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least every two years. Glaucoma is a slow, gradual disease whose impact on vision can go unrecognized until a significant amount of vision is lost and unable to be recovered. This loss in vision can be prevented with early detection and treatment.
Glaucoma is one of the many diseases that impacts our racial and ethnic minorities disproportionally. In America, 2.2 million people are diagnosed with open angle glaucoma.1 By 2020, that number is expected to increase by 50% to 3.4 million. In addition, studies have shown that as many as 50% who have glaucoma are unaware that they have the disease. 2,3,4 Not everyone has the same risk for glaucoma. Glaucoma is three times more prevalent in African Americans than in whites. 5 The burden of other diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and cataracts disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minority communities as well.
Access and utilization of care remain prominent issues among racial and ethnic minorities. Both African Americans and Hispanics were significantly less likely to visit an eye care professional than whites.5 When interacting with the health care system, Hispanics experience many barriers including language and discrimination.6 However, even within the Hispanic population, rates of utilization vary by subgroup.7 The burden of eye disease on racial and ethnic minorities is often multiplied because of poverty and low education in these communities. Raising awareness among individuals is a start. However, targeted public health interventions are needed to impact the greatest change.
* This is an example of what many people with glaucoma may experience. Models are for illustrative purposes only.
1 Friedman DS, Wolfs RC, O’Colmain B, et al. The prevalence of open-angle glaucoma among adults
in the United States. Arch Ophthalmol 2004;122:532–538.
2 Tielsch JM, Sommer A, Katz J, Royall RM, Quigley HA, Javitt J. Racial variations in the prevalence of primary open-angle glaucoma: the Baltimore Eye Survey. JAMA 1991;266:369–374. [PubMed:
3 Leske M, Connell A, Schachat A, Hyman L. The Barbados Eye Study: prevalence of open angle
glaucoma. Arch Ophthalmol 1994;112:821–829.
4 Wensor MD, McCarty CA, Stanislavsky YL, Livingston PM, Taylor HR. The prevalence of glaucoma in the Melbourne Visual Impairment Project. Ophthalmology 1998;105:733–739.
7 Lee DJ, Lam BL, Arora S, Arheart KL, McCollister KE, Zheng DD, Christ SL, Davila EP. Reported Eye Care Utilization and Health Insurance Status Among US Adults. Arch Ophthalmol. 2009 Mar;127(3):303–10.