Letters: Black Americans have high rate of eye disease

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It’s Black History Month, a time we reflect and honor the triumphs and struggles of African Americans in the United States. Often, we look back. This month I plan to look forward and identify how, in my world, I can remove some of the challenges Black Americans face.

Specifically, I work with people who are blind and visually impaired. I am also one of those people. One concern that strikes me is that Black Americans have some of the highest rates of vision loss and blindness caused by eye disease. These rates are only getting higher. More than 825,000 Black Americans have diabetic retinopathy, a disease caused by damage to the blood vessels in the tissue at the back of the eye.

Black Americans are also at higher risk for cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Many conditions do not come with symptoms at first but can lead to blindness if gone untreated. The National Eye Institute reports that many eye diseases can be caught early with a thorough dilated eye exam. That is when they are easier to treat.

The reality remains that when a person loses his or her sight, they are not only robbed of the ability to see but often, they lose hope. At Bosma, we help people who face the obstacles associated with blindness. We teach them how to navigate through life. We also employ them or help them find employment. Our rehabilitation and training programs help people who are blind and visually impaired become independent. That independence brings about hope.

There are many reasons to look forward this month. If my message brings hope to one person facing vision loss to contact Bosma, then we have made progress.

—Lise Pace, Bosma Enterprises vice president of public affairs

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