Your Heritage and Your Vision Health

older woman at the pool wearing a swim cap

Different groups of people face different vision risk factors.

According to the 2010 Census Briefs, by 2050 more than half of the U.S. population will be considered part of a minority group.1 Our heritage is an important source of pride for many. But did you know your ethnic heritage can affect your risk, and your family’s, for different kinds of vision and health-related problems? Because early detection is a key to treating vision and health problems effectively, it’s important to know what those risks are and to ask about them at your family’s annual eye exams.

Did you know?

Your ethnic heritage can affect your risk for different kinds of vision problems.

Who’s at risk for what?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Focus: Seniors, Hispanics
AMD occurs when part of the retina deteriorates. Because AMD affects the central portion of vision, it impacts daily activities like driving, reading and doing close work.2 Among older Americans, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, with more than 25 million people worldwide suffering from it.3 Among the Hispanic population, one in 10 is at risk of developing advanced AMD, which can diminish or eliminate central vision.4


Focus: Seniors, African Americans, Hispanics
A cataract clouds the eye’s lens, which blocks the passage of light. The condition is typically associated with aging. Comparatively, African Americans are more at risk for developing cataracts than the general population, and they are five times more likely to develop blindness because of it.5 Moreover, Hispanics are three times more likely to have cataracts than Caucasians and African Americans.6  


Focus: Seniors, Diabetics, Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanics
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among older adults. It occurs when increased fluid pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve. African Americans and Hispanics are especially at risk for this debilitating disease. Studies have shown that members of these two groups are six to eight times more likely than others to develop open-angle glaucoma.7 Asian Americans are more likely to develop angle-closure glaucoma,8 a disease condition in which blocked drainage canals can cause pressure to rise very quickly in the eye, resulting in sudden severe pain and vision loss. Other factors, including advanced age diseases such as diabetes, can  increase the risk for glaucoma.9

Diabetes and hypertension

Focus: A special health note

Diabetes and hypertension, or high blood pressure, are both serious health issues that can ultimately affect vision. While there are overall health factors that increase the likelihood of developing these conditions, ethnicity may also play a role. Among Hispanics, diabetes affects this group at three times the rate of the general population,10 and 29 percent suffer from hypertension.11 African Americans are also at increased risk for developing diabetes12 and hypertension,13 and diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death among Asian Americans.14 An annual full eye exam can help in the detection of both conditions.

Refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, presbyopia)

Focus: Most people with vision correction needs have one or more of these conditions
According to the National Eye Institute, refractive errors, which affect how the eyes bend or “refract” light, are the most common vision problems. It’s why many of us need corrective eyewear. However, different groups of people are prone to different types of refractive errors.

For example, 85 percent of Asian Americans have nearsightedness.15 Hispanic children are also more likely to be nearsighted. White and Hispanic children are more likely to have farsightedness. Hispanic and Asian American children are also more likely than other groups to have astigmatism, an irregular curvature of the cornea that causes blurry vision. 16    

All of us want to see and feel our best. Consider your risk factors, and remember: Good vision care, starting with a full annual eye exam, should be an important part of looking out for your vision and your health.  

  1. 2010 Census Briefs, “Overview of Race and Hispanic Origin: 2010”
  2. American Optometric Association, “Diet, Nutrition and Eye Health,” 2009; Archives of Ophthalmology, “Between Vitamin D and Age-Related Macular Degeneration in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” 1988 Through 1994, May 2007.
  3. Transitions Healthy Sight for Life, “Hispanic Eyes”
  4. Transitions Healthy Sight for Life, “Focus on African Americans”
  5. Ibid.
  6. Transitions Healthy Sight for Life, “Hispanic Eyes,”
  7. The Ohio State University; Glaucoma Research Foundation.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Transitions Healthy Sight for Life, “Focus on Hispanic Americans”.
  11. Transitions Healthy Sight for Life, “Hispanic Eyes,”
  12. Transitions Healthy Sight For Life, “Focus on African Americans”
  13. Ibid.
  14. Transitions Healthy Sight for Life, “Focus on Asian Americans”
  15. Ibid.
  16. The Ohio State University; Glaucoma Research Foundation.