News Releases

March 12, 2008

Study Alerts Eye Doctors of Racial Differences in Treating Vision Disorders

Media Contact:
Joy H. Bell, 404-778-3711, jbell@emory.edu

ATLANTA - Blacks are more likely to lose vision due to increased pressure in the brain than other races, reports an Emory Eye Center researcher in the March 11, 2008 issue of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The pressure, called idiopathic intracranial hypertension, was identified as causing the disorder, says Beau Bruce, MD, MS, a neuro-ophthalmology fellow at the Emory University School of Medicine and lead researcher for the study.

“The racial factor is purely just that,” says Dr. Bruce. “Other factors such as differences in diagnosis, treatment or care don’t seem to matter. We found that intracranial hypertension clearly affects black people more aggressively. This would tell us that ophthalmologists and others treating blacks need to monitor their vision very closely.”

Timothy W. Olsen, MD, director of Emory Eye Center, says, “Dr. Bruce and colleagues have discovered an interesting association that warrants further investigation. Identification of the key risk factors certainly help clinicians in patient management.”

Idiopathic intracranial hypertension has no known cause. Those affected may experience headache, ringing in the ears and vision problems. Blurriness and double vision are typical. This disease is most common in young, obese (black) women.

Seventeen years of records at Emory Eye Center were reviewed for the study.

All patients in the study had intracranial hypertension. Of the 450 patients, 197 were black, 246 were white, five were Hispanic and two were Asian. The black patients were 3.5 times more likely to end of up severe vision loss in at least one eye. Further, they were five times more likely to become legally blind than the non-black patients.

Dr. Bruce notes that the black patients in his study did have other risk factors including weight (higher body mass index), higher frequency of low blood iron and higher pressures around the brain than other study participants. Vision loss in blacks could be explained somewhat by those factors. Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc. and the National Institutes of Health helped fund the study.

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