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June 20, 2001
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Mexican-Americans At High Risk for Diabetic Retinopathy


Hispanics over the age of 40 are twice as likely to have diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, according to a study led by Johns Hopkins researchers. This population also is at high risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness.

The study, funded by the National Eye Institute, was called Proyecto VER (Vision Evaluation and Research). It looked at vision problems among 4,774 Mexican-Americans age 40 and older living in Tucson and Nogales, Ariz. Participants were randomly selected based on information from the 1990 census. They filled out a health questionnaire and were evaluated in a clinic.

Study results, published in the July issue of the journal Diabetes Care, showed the incidence of diabetes among this population to be 22 percent, ranging from 12 percent in participants ages 40 to 49 to 34 percent in participants ages 70 to 79. Forty-eight percent of those with diabetes also had diabetic retinopathy, 32 percent of whom had moderate to severe cases. In addition, eye exams given during the study detected diabetic retinopathy in 15 percent of those who said they did not have diabetes. Within this group, 9 percent had advanced retinopathy and were in danger of losing vision.

"The finding that 15 percent of diabetic cases in this community were unknown before our survey indicates just how important it is to identify and control diabetes among this population," says Sheila K. West, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology and epidemiology at Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute.

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