GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month. Research shows women are at greater risk than men for most eye diseases. Several factors could be to blame including age, hormonal issues, and a greater prevalence of autoimmune disease. If caught early, most conditions are manageable.
Women are at higher risk of permanent vision loss than men and more likely to suffer from eye issues including macular degeneration, glaucoma, and dry eye.
“Women tend to live longer and a lot of the conditions that cause vision loss are more prevalent with age,” said Dr. Kamal Westfall, of Westfall Vision, a division of EyesNY. She says as many as 11 million people in the U.S. have some form of macular degeneration. The macula is the part of the retina where your sharpest central vision comes from.
“Over time that tissue can deteriorate and you’re left with blind spots in the center of your vision,” she said.
Eye injections, laser therapy, and a special combination of vitamins are all treatments that could slow the progression. While blurred vision is an early symptom, that’s not the case for glaucoma, which is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness.
“There are no early symptoms so you can have glaucoma and not realize it, and there’s statistics out there that say as many as 50 percent of people who have glaucoma don’t know it,” said Dr. Westfall.
Glaucoma is the deterioration of tissue around the optic nerve, leading to peripheral vision loss. It’s often treated with prescription eye drops.
“Early detection is the key a lot of these conditions, like macular degeneration and glaucoma are more manageable with early intervention,” she said.
If you have a family history of glaucoma, it’s never too soon to get an eye exam. Age is factor for both conditions. Those 40 and up should schedule an exam to establish a baseline and follow it up with regular checks to make sure nothing changes.
“Don’t smoke. Smoking is one of the worst things for eye health,” said Dr. Westfall.
She says says a diet rich in fruits and green leafy vegetables can be protective to the macula.
Women are also twice as likely as men to experience dry eye thanks to hormonal fluctuations. Screen time doesn’t help.
“When we’re staring at any device or screen you tend to not as consciously blink as much so that does lead us more prone to dryness,” she said.
Artificial tears can be helpful or try Dr. Oz’s 20/20/20 rule.
“Every 20 minutes look away from the screen for 20 seconds, and you want to look like 20 feet away. It exercises the muscles in your eyes,” he said.
It’s also important to protect your eyes from the sun by wearing sunglass with 100-percent UV protection. UV exposure is linked to cataracts and eye damage that can accumulate slowly overtime without your noticing until irreversible harm.
Women’s Eye Health was created in response to a staggering fact about women and eye health. More than two out of every three people who are blind or visually impaired in the world are women, according to the organization.
Women’s Eye Health is partners with the National Eye Health Education Program (an arm of the National Eye Institute) and Women in Ophthalmology. It’s important for women to realize this risk and even more important for them to realize most vision loss is preventable, all three organizations said.
Keep eyes healthy
- Schedule an eye exam, even if you think there is nothing wrong
- Know your risk for eye diseases and family history
- Eat healthy foods especially dark, leafy greens and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids
- Quit smoking
- Wear sunglasses
- Prevent eye injury by wearing safety glasses or goggles during high risk activities like sports
- Every 20 minutes take a break from looking at a computer screen
*Source: National Eye Institute
The risk of certain eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and age-related macular degeneration increase as a woman gets older. Women’s Eye Health suggests women without any eye health problems get a baseline eye exam when they turn 40 and follow-ups between every two to four years after that until age 60.
Common eye conditions
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Amblyopia (lazy eye)
- Color blindness
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Dry eye
- Refractive errors
- Retinal detachment
*Source: National Eye Institute
Another aspect of eye health that women may not consider is makeup. Cleaning make-up brushes and eyelash curlers regularly, replacing make-up every three months, sharpening eye pencils to remove build-up, storing make-up at room temperature, and removing eye make-up at night can reduce the risk of developing an eye infection or allergic reaction, according to Women’s Eye Health.
Approximately 2.4M eye injuries happen in the U.S. every year. An estimated 90% could have been prevented with safety glasses or goggles. Every day there are more than 2,000 work-related eye injuries. There are also approximately 125,000 eye injuries from common household products every year, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.