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Blacks at higher risk of eye diseases

April 22, 2012 at 11:02 AM

WASHINGTON, April 22 (UPI) -- African-Americans have a higher risk of eye diseases, but fewer than half get a yearly eye exam, a U.S. non-profit group says.

The National Council of Negro Women said it is making eye health a top goal to address the higher risk among blacks for many eye diseases and vision problems.

Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, executive director of the 77-year-old civil rights group, said a recent study found that only 7 percent of African-Americans know that extended exposure to the sun -- a risk for cataracts -- can damage the eyes.

In the United States, African-Americans are the most likely demographic group to say they do nothing to protect their eyes from the sun, Jones-DeWeever said.

African Americans are 1.5 times more likely to suffer from cataracts than the general population, and are five times more likely than Caucasians to develop glaucoma, Jones-DeWeever said. They are also at higher risk for overall health issues, such as diabetes, hypertension and HIV/AIDS, all of which can have serious implications for vision.

"We will be making sure that vision care is addressed throughout our health outreach efforts in the future," Jones-DeWeever said in a statement.

A section of the Web site of the National Council of Negro Women provides eye health information and resources at ncnw.org/resources/health.htm along with other materials sponsored by Transitions Optical.

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