Minorities in the United States are at higher risk of eye disease, according to a press release from Market Watch.
The Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to provide easily accessible, cheap or free eye care to Americans living in underserved areas. The foundation hopes to do so through its public service program, EyeCare America.
According to the press release, three times as many African Americans have glaucoma than caucasians do, and four times as many African Americans are blind. Diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts are the leading cause of blindness for African Americans. The same applies to the Hispanic population, for whom glaucoma goes undetected in 82% of cases. Glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy are the leading causes of vision loss for Asian Americans.
It is recommended that everyone receive a thorough eye exam by the age of 40. However, for African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans, this is even more important. It is paramount to know one’s family history, should they fall into one of these groups. Anyone with a history of smoking or a poor diet should visit an eye doctor as soon as possible, regardless of ethnic background.
Age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and cataracts are the main diseases that lead to vision loss. Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, only occurs after the age of 55.
Due to the African American and Hispanic populations in poorly served areas of the United States, EyeCare America aims to provide access to eye exams and health services at little or no cost.
“The first line of defense against eye disease is to get an eye exam and find out if there’s a problem,” says chairman of EyeCare America, Richard P. Mills, M.D. “We want all Americans to get the eye care they need. It is our goal to ensure that the cost of medical care never stops someone from getting an exam.”
Individuals who are eligible will be paired up with an ophthalmologist in their area by EyeCare America. This ophthalmologist will provide an eye exam or test for glaucoma. Some patients can receive up to a year of treatment at no out-of-pocket costs.