Healthcare Disparities in the US Amongst Those of Color With Glaucoma

Glaucoma affects many people across the globe, but primarily, it's affecting African Americans due to access.

Glaucoma affects many people across the globe, but primarily, it's affecting African Americans due to access issues.

According to a release, others who fall most at risk of glaucoma are Hispanics, Asians, the elderly, people with elevated eye pressure, primary relatives with glaucoma, persons with high myopia, high hyperopia and those with a history of eye trauma and diabetes.

A study reported earlier this year by Review of Optometry shared Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world and is estimated to affect approximately 76 million people today and as many as 111.8 million in the next 20 years.

Dr. Daniel Laroche, director of Glaucoma Services and president of Advanced Eyecare of New York, shared the effects of this eye disease include no plain, but a loss of vision, which occurs slowly from peripheral to central, to damage of the retinal ganglions cells and optic nerve and increased eye pressure. Many people don't realize it’s happening until they have lost a substantial amount of peripheral vision.

To put it bluntly, Laroche said there's only one way to prevent these effects: don't skip your eye care visits.

However, for groups that face healthcare disparities like African Americans, the severity of glaucoma begins at an earlier age and at a more aggressive course for them rather than those white people and Asians, according to Review of Optometry.

"This may not be due entirely to genetic factors, but partially 'a result of a lack of early diagnosis and poor access to treatment,'” the article said.

Also found in the study is glaucoma’s prevalence in those over 40 is highest among African Americans, at 5.7% compared with 2.2% in white people. The prevalence of the disease generally increases with age, and forms of glaucoma like primary open-angle glaucoma is strongly correlated with age.

Glaucoma also comes with an economic burden in the U.S., tallying to $2.9 billion, according to the study. It's been reported that glaucoma patients incur, on average, an additional $2,903 in annual total healthcare costs and higher outpatient costs by $2,599 compared with those without glaucoma. Treating and preventing glaucoma is approximately $5.8 billion per year in the United States, and this number is expected to rise to $12 billion by 2032 and $17.3 billion by 2050. Prescription drugs are the main reason for the high cost.

Although costs do remain high, there are affordable and accessible ways to receive eye care for those looking for less costly options. Some options that can assist are national programs, Medicaid and Medicare, optometry schools, discount eye exam centers at your local store and more.

“Eyesight or human vision is one of the most important senses," Laroche said. "As much as 80% of what we feel comes through our sense of sight. By protecting the eyes, people will reduce the chance of blindness and vision loss while also staying on top of any developing eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts.

He added a healthy brain function requires a healthy vision.

"The brain is our most essential organ, and it allows us to control other organs," Laroche said. "Normal and healthy vision contributes to improved learning and comprehension for a better quality of life."