Latinos have a higher rate of severe vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy than whites, according to results of the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study, which represents the largest, most comprehensive effort to track the causes of blindness and access to eye care among Latinos.

The study team enrolled more than 6,300 Latino men and women older than 40 who lived in the communities in and around the city of La Puente, Calif.1
Some key findings:

Diabetes. Nearly one in four participants had diabetes (mostly type 2), and one in five of these participants with diabetes was newly diagnosed during the LALES clinic exam.2 About half those participants with diabetes had diabetic retinopathy. And, among those newly diagnosed with diabetes, 23% had diabetic retinopathy. More than 10% of participants with diabetes had macular edema.

Glaucoma. Nearly 5% of Latinos had open-angle glaucoma, and nearly 4% had ocular hypertension.3 Of concern to the researchers: Three-quarters of those with open-angle glaucoma and three-quarters of those with ocular hypertension were undiagnosed before LALES. The rate of open-angle glaucoma among Latinos was higher than that reported for whites and similar to that in blacks.

Age-related macular degeneration. Among those with any signs of AMD, just more than half reported ever visiting an eye doctor and only 21% did so annually.4

Cataract. One in five adult Latinos had cataract. Half of Latinos with cataract or other clouding of the lens were visually impaired.5

Visual impairment. Some 3% of LALES participants were visually impaired, and 0.4% were blind. Visual impairment prevalence in Latinos was higher than that reported in whites and comparable to that reported in blacks.6,7

Study director Rohit Varma, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of ophthalmology and preventive medicine at the Keck School and USCs Doheny Eye Institute, hopes health educators will use the data to find effective outreach strategies and plan care services.

Because vision loss can often be reduced and indeed prevented with regular comprehensive eye exams and timely treatment, there is an increasing need to implement culturally appropriate programs to detect and manage eye diseases in this population, Dr. Varma says. Overall, Latinos were much more likely to have received general medical care than to have received eye care. 
1. Varma R, Paz SH, Azen SP, et al. The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study: design, methods, and baseline data. Ophthalmology 2004 Jun;111(6):1121-31.
2. Varma R, Torres M, Pena F, et al. Prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in adult Latinos: the Los Angeles Latino eye study. Ophthalmology 2004 Jul;111(7):1298-306.
3. Varma R, Ying-Lai M, Francis BA, et al. Prevalence of open-angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension in Latinos: the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study. Ophthalmology 2004 Aug;111(8):1439-48.
4. Varma R, Fraser-Bell S, Tan S, et al. Prevalence of age-related macular degeneration in Latinos: the Los Angeles Latino eye study. Ophthalmology 2004 Jul;111(7):1288-97.
5. Varma R, Torres M; Los Angeles Latino Eye Study Group. Prevalence of lens opacities in Latinos: the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study. Ophthalmology 2004 Aug;111(8):1449-56.
6. Varma R, Ying-Lai M, Klein R, et al. Prevalence and risk indicators of visual impairment and blindness in Latinos: the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study. Ophthalmology 2004 Jun;111(6):1132-40.
7. Globe DR, Wu J, Azen SP, et al. The impact of visual impairment on self-reported visual functioning in Latinos: The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study. Ophthalmology 2004 Jun;111(6):1141-9.

Vol. No: 141:08Issue: 8/15/04