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Potential Eye Risks Based on Ethnicity

You probably know that vision loss is more likely as people age, but there’s another risk factor for several serious eye diseases: family ancestry.

It is well known that ethnicity relates to the presence and severity of certain diseases. For example, African ancestry puts an individual at higher risk of glaucoma – a progressive disease that damages the optic nerve, leading to complete and permanent blindness if untreated. Since many serious eye conditions have no noticeable early symptoms, it is important to consider if you have any risk factors and schedule a regular eye exam with an ophthalmologist.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, people of African or Latino ancestry have a much higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts. People of Asian ancestry have an increased risk of angle-closure glaucoma, which can rapidly lead to permanent blindness.

A dilated eye exam uses eye drops to enlarge the pupils enabling examination of the entire eye. This is the best way to check for eye diseases. Symptoms such as pain or reduced vision may not appear until a disease is in its advanced stages.

The Academy recommends a baseline comprehensive eye exam for adults around age 40, when age-related changes often begin. By age 65, exams should be performed every year or two. Individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure or any known eye problems may need more frequent exams. A family history of diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration should prompt regular checkups. Tell your ophthalmologist immediately if your vision changes or you experience pain.

September 9, 2016