Racial, Ethnic, and Socioeconomic Disparities in Glaucoma Onset and Severity in a Diverse Nationwide Cohort in the United States

J Glaucoma. 2023 Sep 1;32(9):792-799. doi: 10.1097/IJG.0000000000002261. Epub 2023 Jul 18.


Prcis: Racial/ethnic minorities are diagnosed with glaucoma at younger ages, and Blacks are more likely to be diagnosed with moderate-to-severe glaucoma. In addition, we highlight a gap in the use of diagnosis codes.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to analyze patterns of diagnosis coding usage and validate epidemiologic patterns of glaucoma onset and severity among primary glaucoma patients within the National Institutes of Health All of Us database.

Patients and methods: We used International Classification of Disease diagnosis codes to build 4 cohorts of patients with mild, moderate, severe, and unspecified stage glaucoma (N=2982). Descriptive analyses were stratified by disease stage, and mean age at diagnosis was compared across racial and ethnic groups. Multivariable ordinal regression was used to examine risk factors for increasing glaucoma severity.

Results: Of 2982 participants, 1714 (57%) had unspecified severity staging. Black/African Americans and other races were diagnosed with glaucoma at significantly younger ages compared with Whites (means 60 and 60 vs. 66 y; P <0.001). Hispanic/Latino participants also had an earlier mean age of diagnosis (61 vs. 65 y; P =0.001). Black/African Americans had higher odds of more severe glaucoma (odds ratio: 2.20, 95% CI, 1.62-3.30; P <0.001) than Whites when adjusting for socioeconomic characteristics.

Conclusions: Black, Hispanic/Latino, and other minority participants are diagnosed with glaucoma at younger ages, and Blacks are more likely to be diagnosed with moderate-to-severe glaucoma. These findings validate prior population-based studies. Furthermore, we observed a gap in the use of diagnosis codes, as only 43% of participants had a specified severity stage in this national cohort. This may have implications for large-scale observational research concerning glaucoma severity, as electronic health records and claims databases typically lack other measures of disease progression, such as imaging and visual field data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Glaucoma* / diagnosis
  • Glaucoma* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Intraocular Pressure
  • Population Health*
  • Racial Groups
  • Socioeconomic Disparities in Health
  • United States / epidemiology