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Hypertension. 2003 May;41(5):1086-91. Epub 2003 Mar 24.

Racial differences in the prevalence of hypertensive retinopathy.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Singapore National Eye Center and National University of Singapore.


Few population-based data support the hypothesis that hypertensive retinopathy is more common in African Americans than in whites. We examined racial differences in the prevalence of and risk factors for hypertensive retinopathy in a population-based sample of 1860 African Americans and 7874 white persons, aged 49 to 73 years, without diabetes. Retinal photographs were taken of one randomly selected eye and evaluated for the presence of retinopathy (flame and blot-shaped retinal hemorrhages, microaneurysms, and soft exudates) according to standardized protocols by graders masked to participant characteristics. The prevalence of retinopathy was 2 times higher in African Americans than in whites (7.7% versus 4.1%, age- and gender-adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.03, 95% confidence intervals [CI] 1.65, 2.49). After controlling for 6-year mean arterial blood pressure, use of antihypertensive medications and left ventricular hypertrophy by ECG criteria, the excess prevalence of retinopathy in African Americans was reduced by 40% (adjusted OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.26, 2.06). Further adjustment for other vascular risk factors, common carotid artery intima-media thickness, and serum creatinine levels reduced the excess prevalence in African Americans by another 13% (adjusted OR 1.48, 95% CI 1.08, 2.03). We conclude that hypertensive retinopathy is twice as frequent in African Americans compared with whites without diabetes and that the excess prevalence of retinopathy in African Americans is associated with blood pressure and severity of hypertension.

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