Asian Americans are more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma (OAG) than Latinos and non-Hispanic white Americans, according to a study in the February 8th online version of Ophthalmology. The study was funded by the National Eye Institute, and was the first of its kind to exclusively analyze glaucoma incidence across several Asian ethnic groups, including Chinese Americans, Vietnamese Americans and Japanese Americans.

Asians are more likely than whites to develop open-angle glaucoma, as seen here.
The researchers reviewed the insurance records of more than 44,000 Asian Americans older than 40 years of age from 2001 to 2007. They determined that Asian Americans’ overall risk for OAG was 6.52%, compared to 6.40% in Latinos and 5.59% in non-Hispanic whites. Additionally, the researchers noted that Chinese and Vietnamese Americans were more likely to develop narrow-angle glaucoma (NAG) than individuals from any other ethnic group in the United States. Further, the data indicated that Japanese Americans were at a 9.5% overall risk for OAG as well as were three to 10 times more likely to develop normal-tension glaucoma (NTG) than individuals from other Asian ethnic groups.

Lead author Joshua D. Stein, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan, urged eye care providers to thoroughly examine Asian American glaucoma suspects for the development of OAG, NAG and NTG.

“For example, the inner eye angle anatomy of patients of Chinese or Vietnamese ancestry should be carefully examined,” he said. “And, since NTG won’t be detected by simply measuring intraocular pressure, eye doctors need to assess the status of the optic nerve in patients whose ethnicity makes them more susceptible to this type of glaucoma.”

Stein JD, Kim DS, Niziol LM, et al. Differences in rates of glaucoma among Asian Americans and other racial groups, and among various Asian ethnic groups. Ophthalmology. 2011 Feb 8. [Epub ahead of print]