Women Need to Focus on Eye Health
It’s been rumored that many women have eyes in the back of their heads (just ask any kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar), but this alleged superpower doesn’t seem to give women an edge for better vision.
In fact, when you take a closer look at eye health, women are significantly more affected by eye disease and vision problems than men. According to the National Eye Institute, over 4.2 million Americans age 40 and older suffer from visual impairment, and 64 percent of these are women. Of the four leading causes of blindness in older Americans: age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy; the rate of women’s cases exceeds men’s in all four categories.
Ophthalmologist Margaret Carter, MD, with The Eye Clinic, says women are more prone than men to AMD in particular, which destroys central vision, with 65% of total cases being diagnosed in females.
Other conditions that may threaten the eye health of women include:
- Cataract, a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens, affects 24.4 million Americans age 40 and older. Almost 15 million of those cases are women.
- Glaucoma, a disease that causes the degeneration of cells that make up the optic nerve, continues to plague the population. Close to 61 percent of glaucoma cases are women.
- Diabetic retinopathy, where blood vessels in the retina can break down, leak or become blocked, affects more than 7.7 million Americans age 40 or older, with women making up over 3.9 million cases. Obesity, also on the rise in the U.S., is a major contributor to diabetes, therefore increasing the rate of diabetic eye disease.
- Dry eye syndrome, a condition that affects the quality of the tear film of the eyes, impacts an estimated 3.2 million American women age 40 and older.
Dr. Carter says changes in vision can occur for women at various stages of life, including pregnancy and post-menopause. Fertility treatments can also cause refractive changes, dry eyes, puffy eyelids that obscure side vision and sensitivity to light due to migraine headaches.
“The total number of eye disease cases is steadily on the rise. The increased longevity of our aging population is obviously one big reason,” says Dr. Carter. “As life expectancy rises, the natural progression of low vision occurs. And because women tend to outlive men, on average, statistics are going to show a bigger discrepancy in their eye disease incidence rates.”
She adds that many women give the health of their children and spouses far more attention than their own, and this applies to the eyes as well. “Scheduling eye appointments for the entire family, including themselves, is one way to make sure women are getting the care they need,” Dr. Carter says. “We can’t stress enough how important it is for women to make sure they take care of their vision throughout their lives. Most eye diseases are treatable, and vision loss is much more likely to be prevented through early detection.”
In addition to regular eye care, Dr. Carter offers women these additional recommendations for keeping their eyes healthy:
Eat Healthy and Stay Fit- The risk of cataracts can be lowered by eating 3½ servings of fruits or vegetables a day. Green leafy vegetables especially contain loads of nutrients for the eye. Pairing a healthy diet with exercise will reduce the risk of obesity, leading to diabetes.
Take Supplements- Antioxidants have been shown to actually reduce the progression of some eye illnesses, including AMD. Vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin C and zinc are good sources to help maintain eye health.
Quit Smoking- Smoking increases the risk for eye diseases, including AMD, glaucoma and cataracts.
Shade your Eyes- When venturing outdoors, wear UV-rated sunglasses (labeled: absorbs 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays), and wide-brimmed hats.
Know Your Family History- Genetics plays a key role in eye disease. Research your family’s health history and notify your eye care professional of any eye diseases that run in the family.
For more information about vision problems and eye health, call The Eye Clinic nearest you or visit www.theeyeclinic.net.