Hispanics at High Risk for Cataracts

Language, insurance barriers keep many from surgery, study finds

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TUESDAY, Sept. 13, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Due to language and financial barriers, Hispanic adults in the United States are more likely than whites or blacks to have cataract-related vision problems, researchers report.

"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," conclude a team at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Their study included nearly 4,800 Hispanics 40 years or older living in southern Arizona. Study participants were interviewed about their history of vision problems and eye care, along with their medical history, socioeconomic status and preferred language. Their vision was also tested.

Among the participants, 2.8 percent (135) had visually significant cataract and 5.1 percent (244) had undergone bilateral cataract surgery. Two factors were important in determining whether the study participants had received cataract surgery -- whether they had medical insurance, and whether they spoke English.

Even after adjusting for other risk factors such as diabetes, "U.S. Hispanic individuals are at a greater risk of having a visually impairing cataract than either African-American or white individuals," the study authors wrote in the September issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

"Cataract is the leading cause of visual impairment in this population and is associated with lower levels of self-reported quality of life; however, a significant percentage of those who likely need cataract removal have never obtained surgery in the population," the authors noted.

"Language and financial barriers in this population impede access to surgery," they conclude. "Further work to remove these barriers and provide sight restoration is warranted."

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about cataract.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, news release, Sept. 12, 2005

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