April is Women’s Eye Health Month, and while anyone can be affected by eye problems, women are unfortunately more likely to suffer from eye problems than men. One straightforward reason that women have more eye problems than men is that women have longer lifespans than men. Conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye and age-related macular (ARM) all become more widespread as you age, and considering this, women have a higher chance of developing these eye problems.
- Age is not the only reason for women’s higher likelihood of being affected by eye-related diseases. Hormone changes that are unique to women can also affect the development of eye problems.
- Pregnancy, which affects so many areas of the body, also affects the eyes. Pregnancy can cause dry eyes, light sensitivity, hypertensive changes, gestational diabetes and periorbital eye swelling. Alongside these common eye problems, some pregnant women also need a change in their eyeglass prescription. Migraines can be the cause of light sensitivity, while high blood pressure caused by pregnancy can be the cause of retinopathy.
- Hormone levels in the body can affect vision and dry eye. Birth control and hormone replacement therapy can cause blood clots, which can lead to vision problems, as well as increasing the chance of dry eye and cataracts; menopause can cause dry eye syndrome and eye inflammation; and, fertility medications can cause vision floaters.
- Breast cancer is another disease that can lead to metastasis to the eye. For every one man that develops breast cancer, 1000 women do. The medications that are taken to treat and to prevent breast cancer can increase the risk of light sensitivity, itchy eyes, cataracts, and intraorbital hemorrhage.
- Women also are more likely than men to suffer from autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and Sjögren’s syndrome, which is a severe form of dry eye and mouth.
There are many things that can be done to help prevent and treat many of the eye diseases that are more common among women.
- To start, the most important things any woman can do for the health of her eyes is to see their optometrist routinely. This is especially important for women over the age of 40. Comprehensive routine eye exams allow for the early detection of eye disease. Early detection equals early treatment and thereby reducing the incidence of permanent vision loss.
- As an aside, it is important to have routine eye exams for your children. We recommend infants be seen by the age of 6 months, then again at age 3 and every year thereafter. It is remarkable how few mothers are aware of the recommended eye exam frequency for children. School screenings should never replace a comprehensive eye health and vision assessment by an eye care professional.
- Third, a diet that is high in vitamin C and E, lutein, zinc, beta-carotene, and omega-3 fatty acids can also help protect the eyes and your vision. Drinking lots of water, and trying to avoid too much sodium and caffeine are also great ways to keep your eyes healthy. Women are also prone to iron deficiency anemia, which can prevent comfortable binocular vision.
Lastly, wearing UV protection throughout the year can go a long way in preventing macular degeneration and delaying the onset or progression of cataracts, besides making you more comfortable in bright conditions.
Prevention is half the battle. You are the main player in protecting your eyes from disease, but Dr. Sciberras’ team can help. Come in for an eye exam, and we’ll provide a comprehensive evaluation and recommend the treatments to help sustain healthy eyes and optimal vision.