Did you know that vision loss disproportionately affects women? That’s why nonprofit Prevent Blindness initiated the establishment of April as Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, to spread knowledge about women’s increased risk for several ocular (eye-related) conditions, and encourage them to take action to protect their vision.
Higher risks for women
The National Eye Institute says that about two out of three people with blindness or impaired vision are female. A few eye diseases and conditions that occur more frequently in women are:
- Dry eye,
- Refractive errors, and
- Age-related macular degeneration.
Why are women’s risks higher?
Experts hypothesize that, since women in the U.S. live longer, on average, than men, they’re more susceptible to age-related conditions of all types, including eye diseases. Demographics may also play a part, they say, since women have long had many more hurdles to leap in order to access appropriate healthcare.
There is evidence that hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) also contribute to this disparity, since many eye tissues have sex steroid hormone receptors that respond to changes in hormone levels. Thyroid hormone imbalances can also play a role.
Which women are most at risk?
Women at particular risk for developing eye diseases are those who:
- Are older,
- Have a family history of eye issues,
- Have diabetes, high cholesterol, and/or high blood pressure,
- Currently smoke, and/or
- Have an autoimmune disease, for which women as a whole are already at higher risk.
What are some resources I can use to learn more?
Fact sheets, infographics, videos, and information about obtaining financial assistance are just a few of the resources that are available in English and Spanish on the Prevent Blindness website.
A free Patient Toolkit, designed to help women speak with their healthcare providers about eye health is also available on the website of the Society for Women’s Health Research.
What’s the best way to protect and support my eye health?
Whether you have an eye condition or not, there are things you can do to support healthy eyes and help prevent damage and vision loss. Some suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) include:
- Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
- Know your family’s eye health and general health history.
- Get dilated eye exams. For many common eye diseases, a dilated eye exam is the only method of early detection.
- Wear protective eyewear like sunglasses and work goggles to guard your eyes from UV rays and flying debris.
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and veggies (especially dark, leafy greens) and healthy fats (cold-water oily fish, nuts, and seeds).
- Lose excess weight, as obesity can raise your risk of systemic diseases that can negatively impact your vision.
- Stop smoking, or don’t start.
- Avoid straining your eyes; use adequate lighting and don’t stare at electronic screens for long periods of time.
- Practice good disinfection habits like washing your hands before touching your eyes, and cleaning and storing your contact lenses as instructed.
Healthy lifestyle habits and advocacy to improve women’s access to vision care are great ways to support women’s eye health and safety, this month and every month.
Guest post By Margalo Eden
The views expressed by the author may not reflect the views of Age Safe America, LLC. The content here should not be taken as medical, legal or financial advice. The content here is for informational purposes only, and because each person is so unique, please consult your own healthcare, legal or financial professional with any questions.