With $9.7 million in funding from the National Eye Institute, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago will study the impact of chronic eye disease among Latinos.
There are approximately 60 million Latinos living in the U.S., and the National Eye Institute reports that Latinos have higher rates of developing visual impairment, blindness, diabetic eye disease and cataracts than non-Hispanic whites.
The study -- called the Study of Latinos "Ojos" study, or SOL Eye study -- will conduct approximately 3,000 eye exams for Latinos living in Chicago and Miami who already are enrolled in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos, the largest ever prospective epidemiological study of the Latino community. Following the eye exams, participants will receive printouts of results, copies of imaging and information for follow-up care if needed.
With the data collected from the exams, investigators will study the prevalence of common eye conditions like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration among this community. They also will study risk factors like cardiovascular disease and sociocultural factors, which are associated with eye disease.
UIC's Dr. Charlotte Joslin is the principal investigator of the new award, and she will work alongside colleagues at the University of Miami, a sister site of the trial. The researchers hope the data collected from these sites will inform personalized medicine approaches to screening, diagnosis and treatment of eye disease in the Latino community and its many background groups.
"We know that Hispanic/Latinos develop certain eye conditions at higher rates than other ethnic groups, but we don't know why," said Joslin, UIC associate professor of ophthalmology at the College of Medicine and of epidemiology and biostatistics at the School of Public Health. "By understanding the health history and following the health of Hispanics/Latinos with eye disease, we may be able to identify patterns or causes of disease that can be prevented or slowed with treatment."
Joslin said the new study will provide a robust set of data that can be stratified beyond the broader Latino ethnic group.
"We want to understand eye disease among Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Cubans and the many different types of people that are considered Hispanic/Latino," Joslin said. "This is particularly relevant because the burden of eye disease is increasing as the average age of the population increases, and this will make Hispanic/Latinos especially vulnerable to eye disease, which in severe cases can be debilitating."
The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos parent study began in 2008 with funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and six other institutes, centers and offices of the National Institutes of Health.
"The inclusion of a comprehensive eye examination in the Study of Latinos will yield important insights into how to best preserve eye health in this rapidly growing and diverse segment of the U.S. population," said David Lee, professor of public health sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and co-principal investigator.
UIC co-investigators are Dr. Lawrence Ulanski, Dr. Thasarat Vajaranant, Dr. Martha Daviglus, Ramón Durazo-Arvizu and Heather Pauls.