Race and glaucoma

Several studies suggest that African Americans are four times as likely as Caucasians to develop glaucoma, and glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for African Americans.  Glaucoma also occurs about ten years earlier among people of African ancestry than among Caucasians, and develops more rapidly. Studies show that in the United States, people of African descent between the ages of 45-64 are approximately 15 times more likely to go blind from glaucoma than Caucasians with glaucoma in the same age group.

Mexican-Americans appear to fall in between these two groups, with prevalence rates near Caucasians at age 50 but increasing to the levels of African Americans by age 65.  One study also suggests that African Americans and Caucasians with advanced glaucoma respond differently to laser and surgical treatment options.

While prevalence rates for some eye diseases are consistent across races, it appears that the percentage of Hispanics and African Americans suffering blindness from most eye diseases is higher than Caucasians because Caucasians have better and more frequent access to medical care.  It is particularly crucial for African Americans to receive annual dilated eye exams after age 40 to reduce the risk of damage from undetected glaucoma.