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Black Americans More Likely to Have Advanced Vision Loss As a Result of Glaucoma

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Black patients diagnosed with glaucoma are more likely than white patients to have advanced vision loss, according to a new study.

Conducted by researchers from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts Eye and Ear, the study, published in the Translational Vision Science and Technology, looked at the files of 210,000 patients involved in three studies beginning from the 1980s. 

Using artificial intelligence known as archetype analysis to measure the visual field loss of the 1,946 patients that went on to get a glaucoma diagnosis, the researchers found that there were 14 archetypes, or patterns in the data, amongst the patients- four of which represented advanced vision loss, nine which represented early vision loss and one that represented no visual field loss.

In their results, they reported that, although they made up just 1.3% of the study, Black patients had two times the increased risk of developing early visual field loss. Compared to the white patients involved, they also had six times the risk of advanced vision loss. 

The findings of the new study are representative of the bigger issue amongst Black Americans as glaucoma is overall most prevalent amongst them than any other ethnic or racial group. 

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, the eye condition occurs five times more often amongst Black Americans around 10 years earlier than in other ethnic groups. If a glaucoma diagnosis is found in a Black American family, the other members of the family have a 20% increased chance of developing it as well- a significantly larger risk compared to white Americans who have a 10% chance. 

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Upon getting diagnosed with it, the effects can be highly detrimental as Black Americans record complete loss of vision from glaucoma at rates that are six times higher than any other group.

“This study has tremendous implications for glaucoma screening of Black people, who we already knew were a population at increased risk of glaucoma,” said the Director of the NYEE Eye and Vision Research Institute and a senior author in the study, Dr. Louis R. Pasquale, MD, in a statement. “Screening earlier in life could significantly increase the chance of detecting glaucoma and slowing down progression before it reaches one of the advanced patterns shown in our research.”

As the researchers prepare for their next steps, Dr. Pasquale and his team are expected to look into the reason why Black Americans are more at risk for developing the eye condition, focusing on the different genetic and environmental conditions that may have an effect. 

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