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Am J Epidemiol. 1998 Dec 1;148(11):1033-9.

Racial differences in lens opacities: the Salisbury Eye Evaluation (SEE) project.

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Dana Center for Preventive Ophthalmology, Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD, USA.


The purpose of this study was to determine racial differences in the prevalence of different types of lens opacities and cataract surgery. Between 1993 and 1995, the Salisbury Eye Evaluation (SEE) Project enrolled a representative sample of 2,520 community-dwelling persons aged 65-84 years in Salisbury, Maryland, 26.4% of whom were African-American. Participants received a full eye examination, and photographs were taken for documentation of lens status. Photographs were graded using a standardized grading system for the presence of cortical, nuclear, or posterior subcapsular cataract (PSC) opacification in at least one eye. The odds of having cortical opacities were 4.0 times greater among African Americans than among Caucasians (95% confidence interval (CI) 3.3-4.8). Caucasians were significantly more likely to have nuclear opacities (odds ratio = 2.1, 95% CI 1.7-2.6) and PSC opacities (odds ratio = 2.5, 95% CI 1.7-3.6). The odds of cataract surgery were 2.8 times higher among Caucasians, but these differences did not explain the differences in the prevalence of different types of lens opacities by racial group. With lower rates of nuclear and PSC opacities than Caucasians, African Americans may have a lower demand for cataract surgery. However, even with these differences, there is still significant unnecessary loss of vision due to cataract among older African Americans, for whom programs to ensure access to surgical care are indicated.

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