February is Black History Month, a time that we recognize the achievements of African Americans in our past and present. Black History Month was founded in Chicago in the summer of 1915. Mr. Carter G. Woodson, an alumnus of the University of Chicago, traveled from Washington D.C. to Chicago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of emancipation. He was joined by thousands of African Americans from all over the country to see the many exhibits about the progress of their people in the last half-century. This exhibition gathered national attention and evolved into a month-long celebration of the achievements of African Americans (Source: ASALH.org). Every president since 1976 has recognized February as Black History Month, and other countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada have their own designated Black History Month (Source: History.com).
During February, we should not only take time to learn about famous African Americans in our past, but we should celebrate life and health in the here and now. Along with this comes the responsibility of sharing important information about eye issues. Did you know that there are many eye diseases that individuals of African American descent are more prone to than others? Here are just a few examples:
Glaucoma is responsible for 19 percent of blindness in African Americans, making it the leading cause of blindness for African Americans. Glaucoma often has no symptoms until permanent eye damage has occurred, so it is important to have regular comprehensive eye exams. African Americans are 6 to 8 times more likely to develop glaucoma than Caucasians, so annual eye exams are recommended.
African Americans are two times more likely to have diabetic retinopathy than Caucasians. In fact more than 11 percent of African Americans over the age of 20 have diabetes but 1 out of 3 people are unaware. Diabetic retinopathy results from diabetes, and it is 40 to 50 percent more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Often, an eye appointment could diagnose diabetes and not just diabetic retinopathy (Source: AARPhealthcare.com).
African Americans are twice as likely to develop cataracts than Caucasians. This could partially be due to other medical issues such as diabetes. People of African American ethnicity are also more likely to become blind from cataracts because of lack of treatment (Source: NY Times).
Sadly, research shows that African Americans are the least likely of all other ethnic groups to schedule regular vision appointments. This statistic is unfortunate because African Americans are at higher risk to develop eye diseases that comprehensive eye exams are designed to diagnose. One visit to the eye doctor could save your vision. This Black History Month, schedule a comprehensive eye exam for someone you love and schedule an appointment for yourself (Source: AARPhealthcare.com).