Do we know anything about the epidemiology of eye disease specifically in Chinese Americans? The Chinese American Eye study (CHES), a National Institutes of Health funded study led by Rohit Varma at USC is a population based cross-sectional study of over 4500 Chinese Americans 50 years and older who reside in Monterey Park, California. This study, which took place between 2010-2013, included a detailed interview, complete ophthalmic exam, disc and fundus photography, as well as measurements of blood pressure, blood glucose and HbA1c. The purpose of the CHES is obtain prevalence estimates of various causes of visual impairment in this population.
A number of findings from the CHES have been published in recent years yielding important information about the epidemiology of eye disease in Chinese Americans, including refractive error, diabetic retinopathy, and age related macular degeneration. The most recent study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology in April 2017, looked at rates of self-reported eye care in this population. It found that 36% of participants reported having an eye exam in the last year, with only 48% of participants reported ever having a dilated eye exam. This rate is substantially lower than what is recommend by the AAO. Interestingly, 47% of eye diseases were not detected in the participants prior to participation in the CHES, with 18% of these individuals visually impaired from these diseases. This low rate of eye care is similar to previous studies of Hispanics and African Americans, and lower than an age matched Caucasian group. What are the underlying reasons behind this low rate of eye care in Chinese Americans? Possibilities include language barriers, lack of insurance, cultural barriers, difficulty to access eye care providers, or lack of education about eye diseases. Clearly further research is needed develop interventions to help improve compliance for eye care in Chinese Americans, hopefully undertaken by members of CAOS!