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Prevalence Data for

Visual impairment and blindness can have a negative impact on employment, mobility, and overall quality of life. Results from the 2004 Los Angeles Latino Eye Study (LALES), a population-based prevalence survey of eye disease in Latinos aged 40 years and older, show that Latinos (primarily of Mexican ancestry) have some of the highest rates of visual impairment and blindness, especially among older adults.1 Eye disease frequently goes undetected in Hispanics/Latinos. Hispanics/Latinos must be encouraged to get regularly scheduled comprehensive dilated eye exams. Educating Hispanic/Latino communities about the importance of early detection and timely treatment is more important than ever.

Diabetes and Diabetic Eye Disease

Hispanics/Latinos have higher rates of diabetes and are at higher risk for diabetic eye disease. Diabetic eye disease refers to a group of eye disorders that people with diabetes may face as a complication of this disease. These disorders include diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma, and all can cause vision loss or even blindness, yet the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy can be reduced through the control of blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. The 2004 LALES reveals that the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy increases with longer durations of diabetes, with the overall prevalence of diabetic retinopathy being more than three times higher in individuals who had diabetes for 15 years or more compared with those who were newly diagnosed with diabetes.2

Results from LALES suggest that the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy is higher among Latinos, primarily of Mexican ancestry. The researchers found that 46.9 percent of study participants have diabetic retinopathy, and of those participants, 30.9 percent have diabetic retinopathy in both eyes.2 Researchers also found that Latinos have a higher rate of more severe, vision-threatening diabetic retinopathy than non-Hispanic Whites.2


Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause damage to the optic nerve. Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common form of the disease. It has no warning signs and, if left untreated, can result in permanent vision loss or blindness. Latinos, predominantly those with Mexican ancestry, have rates of POAG comparable to those of African Americans, and significantly higher than those found among non-Hispanic Whites.3 The 2004 LALES reveals that 4.74 percent of all study participants have POAG.3 The study also shows that the prevalence of POAG among participants aged 80 years and older is 16 times higher than that of participants aged 40 to 49.3 Although early detection and treatment can prevent vision loss, most cases of glaucoma in Latino populations go undiagnosed. Results from LALES reveal that 75 percent of Latino participants with POAG were previously undiagnosed.3

Visual Impairment and Blindness

Results from the 2004 LALES show the rates of visual impairment and blindness to be increasingly high among Latinos, in particular older Latino adults.1 LALES also shows that 3 percent of the study participants are visually impaired and 0.4 percent of participants are blind.1

Results of the study also reveal that female Latino participants are more likely to have visual impairment, with a recorded 3.5 percent of female participants experiencing visual impairment compared with only 2.3 percent of male participants.1 Although female participants are found to have a higher prevalence of visual impairment compared with their male counterparts, the study finds them to be equally as likely as male participants to be blind.1 These age- and gender-related differences highlight the need to target older Latino adults and females, particularly those with a history of eye disease, with programs, efforts, and messages that inform them of the importance of screening and early treatment.


  1. Varma, R., Ying-Lai, M., Klein, R., Azen, S. P., Los Angeles Latino Eye Study Group. (2004). Prevalence and risk indicators of visual impairments and blindness in Latinos. The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study. Ophthalmology, 111(6), 1132–1140.
  2. Varma, R., Torres, M., Peña, F., Klein, R., Azen, S. P., Los Angeles Latino Eye Study Group. (2004). The prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in adult Latinos. The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study. Ophthalmology, 111(7), 1298–1306.
  3. Varma, R., Ying-Lai, M., Francis, B. A., Nguyen, B. B., Deneen, J., Wilson, R. et al. (2004). Prevalence of open-angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension in Latinos. The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study. Ophthalmology, 111(8), 1439–1448.

Department of Health and Human Services NIH, the National Institutes of Health