Worldwide, around 285 million people suffer from a degree of sight loss, with around 39 million registered as being blind. Sight loss can be caused by a number of factors - including ethnicity - and can be devastating.
Considering studies show that some eye health problems are linked to ethnic backgrounds, it begs the question whether there’s a link between BAME treatment in hospitals, leading to cases of GP negligence, and eye disease.
Of course, this is a question for more expert minds so, in this article, we’ll explore some of the eye issues faced by people from different ethnicities. We’ll do this by exploring some of the most common eye problems, so take a look…
Ethnicity and Eye Problems: a Link?
A cataract occurs when a cloudy lens covers the eye, causing a loss of vision and, in some cases, sensitivity to light. Many sufferers describe having a cataract as a little like constantly looking at the world through a foggy window, and this condition is often associated with ageing.
Cataracts can be removed relatively quickly and easily through surgery. Approximately 12 million people across the globe are affected by cataracts, and it’s thought that people of African descent are five times more likely to develop cataracts during their lifetime, and four times more likely than others to suffer blindness as a result.
This common eye condition occurs when the optic nerve connecting the eye to the brain becomes damaged - usually due to a fluid buildup at the front of the eye. Often, glaucoma is asymptomatic, and is only picked up during an eye test but, in severe cases, sufferers may experience blurred vision, eye pain and seeing rainbow coloured shapes near bright lights.
Glaucoma usually affects people in their 70s and 80s and is particularly prevalent amongst those of Asian and African descent. Studies also show that people of Hispanic backgrounds are highly prone to developing glaucoma.
Affecting people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, diabetic retinopathy is caused by damage to the light-sensitive tissue and blood vessels at the back of the eye. Although this condition usually only produces mild symptoms, it can lead to blindness if left untreated.it can be aggravated by a diabetic failing to adequately control their blood sugar.
Cases of diabetic retinopathy are significantly higher in people of Latin American and Indigenous Tribal descent.
Cancer of the eye
While thankfully rare (around 851 UK cases every year), eye cancer can be devastating and even fatal if left untreated. The most common type of eye cancer is Ocular Melanoma, and symptoms of this include:
• Bulging in one eye
• Partial or full loss of sight
• Eye pain
• Blurry vision
• A pale raised lump or general difference in the appearance of the eye
Eye cancer tends to affect white people more than any other ethnic group, and is generally more prevalent in men than women.
Also known as ‘lazy eye’, Amblyopia occurs when the brain and the eye suffer a disconnect and do not work together. The condition, which occurs first in children, will often lead to poor vision in the affected eye.
Amblyopia is typically treated using eye patches, corrective lenses and, in extreme cases, surgery. Amblyopia tends to affect Asian people (3%) and non-Hispanic white people (5.4%).
Preventing Eye Disease
Whatever your ethnic background, there are a few things you can do to minimise the risk of eye disease and, these include:
- Know the risks: in this article, we’ve highlighted some age, gender and ethnicity factors which can contribute to your risk of developing eye disease. Your first defence is to know your risk when it comes to certain conditions.
- Eye tests: even with busy lives, it’s incredibly important to get into the habit of booking regular eye tests in order to nip any potential problems in the bud. These tests are widely available and are usually free of charge.
- Use protection: sunlight and pollutants can both go into the mix when it comes to an increased risk of eye disease. You should always wear sunglasses with a UV filter when in bright sunlight, and always protect the eyes when working with pollutants such as dust.
- Contact lenses: contact lenses are a great alternative to glasses, but incorrect use can damage the eye and lead to eye disease. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when putting in your lenses and, if you experience any discomfort, remove the lenses immediately.
- Diet: while we can’t promise that carrots will help you to see in the dark, it is proven that some foods can help to maintain eye health and prevent disease and, some of these are fish, nuts and grains, citrus fruit, carrots, leafy green vegetables and red meat
Maintaining a healthy diet can help to stave off some of the more common eye conditions, as well as boosting your immune system and improving overall health.
Is Eye Health Related to Ethnicity?
While the loss of any of the senses can be devastating, the loss of sight can be particularly life-changing, forcing people to learn to navigate the world without the benefit of their vision. Knowing your risk and taking regular eye tests can considerably help to minimise the risk of an eye condition becoming a larger problem by allowing for swift treatment.
It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of examining your own eyes on a regular basis in order to identify any changes which may be a tell tale sign of something sinister.
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained medical professional. Be sure to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if you’re seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.