New research suggests Latinos have the highest rates of eye disease in the United States, and one Los Angeles area clinic, Eye Physicians of Long Beach, is supremely prepared to meet the community's eye care needs.
The findings, part of a recent study by the U.S. National Eye Institute, show Latinos' rates of visual impairment and blindness are higher than any other ethnic group in the nation. The research also found 34 percent of its participants, which included about 4,600 people from the Los Angeles area, had diabetes and developed diabetic retinopathy, a condition most common among patients between 40 and 59 years old.
Alarmingly, the study also found many don't realize they suffer from the most common eye maladies such as cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
"There's a great opportunity here to serve the community, and I feel a strong urge to do more to help people who are suffering," said Dr. Carlos Martinez with Eye Physicians of Long Beach, the only practice in the city to offer all-laser iLASIK with Intralase.
Martinez feels a special calling to serve the area's 4.7-million member Latino community. Latinos have higher rates of high eye disease for many reasons, including their unique genetics, diet and lifestyle, he said. Also, a lack of access to health care may affect the rate.
But his drive to serve is deeper than that. The child of Cuban immigrants, he grew up in Madrid, Barcelona, and Puerto Rico, and knows first-hand the problems Latinos face in the United States.