The Los Angeles Latino Eye Study started in 2000 as the nation’s largest and most comprehensive study of vision in Latinos, and it still holds that distinction. LALES was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute and the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, along with Research to Prevent Blindness.
LALES showed that Latinos have higher rates of developing visual impairment, blindness, diabetic eye disease and cataracts than non-Hispanic whites. The burden of vision loss and eye disease on the Latino community is increasing as the population ages, and many eye diseases are becoming more common.
LALES was first to analyze the risk and prevalence of early and late stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and its impact on quality of life for older Latinos. Among other findings, the study determined the following outcomes:
AMD is a chronic, progressive disease affecting 2 million Americans and typically diagnosed in those people 50-to-60 years of age. LALES was conducted among 4,876 Latinos in Los Angeles with a mean age cohort of 54.8 years old.
Also of critical concern was the lower level of health care access among this group, which is likely to impact follow-up care of these patients and may make them more susceptible to diminished quality of life. Among those with any signs of AMD, only 57 percent reported ever visiting an eye care practitioner, and only 21 percent did so annually.
Diabetes remains a major concern among this population.
Latinos are also at increased  glaucoma risk. LALES revealed that:
The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began providing a glaucoma screening benefit to Latinos aged 50 years and older as a result of the high rate of glaucoma reported by LALES.
LALES completed its third phase of data collection in 2014.