Race and its Role in Cataracts

While age-related cataracts will affect all of us if we live to a ripe old age, there is a good wealth of scientific evidence surrounding cataract, race, and their development.

While age-related cataracts will affect all of us if we live to a ripe old age, there is a good wealth of scientific evidence surrounding cataract, race, and their development.  

This knowledge has altered quite dramatically over the past couple of decades—in the early 2000s it was believed that race had virtually no impact. Today, we know that the opposite applies. However, when we look at the correlation between cataracts and race, we also need to take other factors into account—such as social elements—as these have a significant impact.

Cataracts and Race

  • Caucasian, African American, Asian, and Hispanic overview
  • Digging deeper into the link between cataracts and race
  • The social divide

Caucasian, African, Asian, and Hispanic overview

On the face of it, there’s plenty of evidence that seems to show that cataracts negatively affect those of African American and Hispanic heritage over Caucasian and Asian. 

However… This certainly isn’t the complete story. In fact, when you look at the incidences of cataract formation in those over the age of 40 (taking a younger demographic than the usual over 60s), then it first appears that Caucasians are more affected—particularly white women over the age of 60. This begins to muddy the waters when it comes to simply saying that being of a particular ethnicity increases your chances of getting cataracts.

The underlying fact is that all of us—no matter what race—will almost definitely have cataracts to some degree over the age of 75. 

Delving deeper into the link between cataracts and race

Race also has an impact on the type of cataract we might develop. For instance, African Americans have four times the chance of developing cortical cataracts but are much less likely to develop nuclear cataracts.

And then, very importantly, other pathological reasons go hand-in-hand with cataract risk. Diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, increase the likelihood of cataract formation—and these health issues also disproportionately affect African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.

The social divide

We can’t look at this subject without considering one of the biggest health issues that face Americans today—the social divide. While non-whites might at first appear to be more at risk of cataracts, we must also consider the inequities in health care. 

Access to regular eye checks, early diagnosis, monitoring, and treatment are all vital elements of good cataract care. However, it’s well known that the African American, Hispanic, and, to a lesser extent, Asian communities often have less access to this. (A complex subject that’s far too large to discuss here). 

The important takeaway is this—without early diagnosis and good monitoring, gradual vision loss from cataracts may well go unnoticed. Add in the increased cataract risk from diseases—such as diabetes—which affects more African Americans than any other race—and it becomes easier to understand why isues with cataracts seem to be worse in non-white communities.

In addition, incidences of more complex cataract surgery are greater in the African American, Hispanic, and Asian communities. *

But the news isn’t all bad… No matter what your race or background, there’s plenty we can all do to reduce the risk of developing cataracts. These include:

  • Keeping your weight at a healthy level.
  • Including plenty of fruit and veg in your diet.
  • Reducing the level of ultra-processed foods we eat.
  • Stopping (or not starting) smoking.
  • Protecting your eyes from UV light.
  • Taking any prescribed medication as instructed, particularly for hypertension and diabetes.
  • If you’re diabetic, strictly measuring and controlling your blood sugar levels.

Cataracts may well be inevitable for all of us if we’re fortunate to live into our 70s or 80s, but taking steps to reduce our risk is a sensible way forward. This holds true for everyone, no matter what race, age, or sex we might be.

Need Complex Cataract Surgery? Contact the WBEC Today

There’s no better place in the US to undergo complex cataract surgery than the West Boca Eye Center. While Caucasians have higher incidences of the condition, Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are more likely to have complex surgery needs. The same is true for men and those over 84 years of age.

No surgeon is better placed to treat such cases than the globally renowned Brent Bellotte MD., lead clinician at the WBEC.

Find out more at https://www.westbocaeyecenter.com/services/cataract-surgery and call today to book a consultation.

* Source: Racial/ethnic differences in rates of complex cataract surgery among United States Medicare beneficiaries.


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