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Diabetes, Eye Disease Undiagnosed in Mexican-Americans

A research study of the Mexican-American population over age 40 found that the rate of diabetes in this group is 20 percent — almost twice that of non-Hispanic whites — and that 15 percent of those with diabetes did not know they had the disease before their participation in the study. The findings suggest that increased efforts to improve diabetes detection in Mexican-Americans may be warranted. These data are reported in a paper published in the July 2001 issue of Diabetes Care, a journal of the American Diabetes Association.

Of the 15 percent who were newly diagnosed with diabetes, 23 percent had early to moderate diabetic retinopathy, a potentially blinding eye complication of diabetes, and another nine percent had advanced diabetic retinopathy and were in immediate danger of losing some vision. The study was sponsored by the National Eye Institute and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities.

"These findings serve as a 'red flag,'" said NEI director Dr. Paul Sieving. "The longer a person has untreated diabetes, the more likely the disease will cause complications. In fact, diabetes increases the risk of blindness 25-fold over the general population. People with diabetes should be encouraged to seek regular eye care to increase the chances of early detection and timely treatment of diabetic eye disease."

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