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Cataracts, Vision Problems High in U.S. Hispanics

Population often has language and financial barriers to treatment

MONDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. Hispanics have a higher prevalence of visually impairing cataracts than other groups, according to a report in the September issue of Archives of Ophthalmology. This population often has difficulty accessing health care, the authors add.

Aimee Teo Broman of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, and colleagues surveyed U.S. Hispanics aged 40 years or older living in southern Arizona between April 1997 and September 1999. The study, called Proyecto VER (Vision and Eye Research), was conducted by home interview where participants were asked questions regarding education, socioeconomic status, history and treatment of vision problems, and history of diabetes mellitus.

Of 4,774 subjects, 61.2% were female and 28.2% were 65 years or older. The authors reported that 2.8% had visually impairing cataracts and 5.1% had received bilateral cataract surgery. Visually impairing cataract was defined as having visual acuity worse than 20/40 in either eye with significant opacity. Those who had medical insurance and who spoke English were more likely to have had surgery for their impairment (odds ratio 2.88 and 1.80, respectively).

"In summary, visually significant cataract appears to be high among U.S. Hispanic individuals of Mexican descent, as evidenced by rate of cataract and rate of surgery," the authors conclude. "Language and financial barriers in this population impede access to surgery."

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