Racial disparity in the prevalence of glaucoma in the United States


  • Karen Allison Mt. Sinai Hospital Brooklyn Veterans Hospital




Glaucoma, a disorder of the optic nerve, occurs when the intraocular pressure, a risk factor for glaucoma, is elevated, leading to an eventual loss of sight.  This study’s purpose is to evaluate the racial disparity in the prevalence of glaucoma and present different ways to improve early diagnosis and treatment outcomes among glaucoma patients.  A literature review is performed using the PubMed database to examine the associated risk factors and prevalence of glaucoma among racial grouping.  The literature indicates that early diagnosis and treatment is the most effective approach for combating the considerable social and economic cost of blindness caused by this disease.  Studies also suggest that outreach, educational, and screening programs to combat eye diseases should be geared towards high-risk populations such as African Americans and Latinos, as these groups tend to be less aware of their eye problems and have limited access to treatments.  The establishment of projects to prevent blindness from glaucoma will alert medical care providers of the need for early evaluation for risk factors, which in turn will allow for the allocation of resources to reimburse for the treatment provided.

Author Biography

Karen Allison, Mt. Sinai Hospital Brooklyn Veterans Hospital

Glaucoma Specialist

Clinical instructor in ophthalmology


Friedman DS, Wolfs RC, O'Colmain BJ; Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group. Prevalence of open-angle glaucoma in the United States. Arch Ophthalmol 2004; 122: 532-8.

Quigley HA, Broman AT. The number of people with glaucoma worldwide in 2010 and 2020. Br J Ophthalmol 2006; 90: 262-7.

Malihi M, Moura Filho ER, Hodge DO, Sit AJ. Long-term trends in glaucoma-related blindness in Olmsted County, Minnesota. Opthalmol 2014; 121: 134-141.

Sommer A, Tielsch JM, Katz J, et al. Racial differences in the cause-specific prevalence of blindness in East Baltimore. N Engl J Med 1991; 325: 1412-7.

Varma R, Ying-Lai M, Francis BA, et al. Prevalence of open-angle glaucoma and ocular hypertension in Latinos. Ophthalmology 2004; 111: 1439-48.

Tjon-Fo-Sang MJ, Lemij HG. Retinal nerve fiber layer measurements in normal black subjects as determined with scanning laser polarimetry. Ophthalmology 1998; 105: 78-81.

Jonas JB, Gusek GC, Naumann G. Optic disc morphometry in chronic primary open- angle glaucoma. I. Morphometric intrapapillary characteristic. Graefes Arch Exp Ophthamol 1998; 226: 522-30.

Jonas JB, Mardin CY, Schlotzer-Schrehardt U, Naumann GO. Morphometry of the human lamina cribrosa surface. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 1991; 32: 401-5.

Beck RW, Messner DK, Musch DC, et al. Is there a racial difference in physiologic cup size? Ophthalmology 1985; 92: 873– 6.

Coulehan JL, Helzlsouer KJ, Rogers KD, Brown SI. Racial differences in intraocular tension and glaucoma surgery. Am J Epidemiol 1980; 111: 759–68.

Hiller R, Kahn HA. Blindness from glaucoma. Am J Ophthalmol 1975; 80: 62–9.

American Academy of Ophthalmology: Glaucoma, in basic clinical science course (Section 10). San Francisco, American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2001, p. 11.

Racette L, Wilson MR, Zangwill LM, et al. Primary open-angle glaucoma in blacks: a review. Surv Ophthalmol 2003; 48: 295-313.

Hansen FK. A clinical study of the normal human central corneal thickness. Acta Ophthalmol 1971; 49: 82–9.

Herndon LW, Weizer JS, Stinnett SS. Central corneal thickness as a risk factor for advanced glaucoma damage. Arch Ophthalmol 2004; 122(1): 17-21.

La Rosa FA, Gross RL, Orengo-Nania S. Central corneal thickness of caucasians and African Americans in glaucomatousand nonglaucomatous populations. Arch Ophthalmol 2001; 11: 923- 27.

Nemesure B, Wu SY, Hennis A, et al. Corneal thickness and intraocular pressure in the Barbados eye studies. Arch Ophthalmol 2003; 121: 240- 244.