Understanding Women’s Eye Health Concerns

Recognizing Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, April 2011

Women Eye Health

Did you know that American women face more vision problems than men?

According to a Duke University study, women are more likely than men to develop vision problems due to hormone changes and life longevity. Review five eye problems women face as they age:

1. Cataracts – Considered the world’s leading cause of blindness, cataracts cloud eye lenses that were previously clear; since women live longer, more deal with cataract issues

  • Avoid developing cataracts – Wear a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses with 100% UV filter to protect eyes from harmful ultraviolet A and B rays that contribute to the development of cataracts; lose weight to lower your risk of high blood sugar levels; eat fish or take fish oil supplements to ward off cataracts and eye disorders; avoid smoking

2. Glaucoma – Occurs when pressure in the eye is too high and the optic nerve is damaged; it’s the second-leading cause of blindness in the United States; the most common type, open-angle glaucoma, affects men and women, but women are two to four times more likely to experience closed-angle glaucoma, a more dangerous form of the disease; most women have eyes that are smaller in shape than men, which affects the natural drainage of fluid from the eye and may result in a buildup of pressure in the eye

  • Prevent glaucoma – Schedule regular comprehensive eye examinations; use prescription eye drops to lower eye pressure; contact your eye doctor if vision changes are detected; surgery may be necessary to improve fluid drainage

3. Macular Degeneration – It’s the No. 1 reason why Americans over age 40 lose their vision; it gradually attacks the central part of the retina and damages fine-detail vision; more women than men are affected because of life longevity

  • Preventive solution – Medical professionals have not identified a cause for macular degeneration, but genetics may be a contributing factor; immediately contact your eye doctor if you notice a change in your vision; consume low-fat meats and two servings of fish each week; exercise at least 30 minutes five days each week

4. Hormone Imbalance/Dry Eye Syndrome – During pregnancy and menopause, women experience hormone changes, which can lead to dry eyes and corneal swelling; hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatments affect vision; as the body ages it produces less oil, which allows water in the eyes to evaporate more easily

  • Treatment options – Regularly schedule eye examinations and share information on hormone changes with your eye doctor; blood pressure should be monitored to avoid development of a detached retina; lubricating drops may relieve dry eyes; tear duct plugs may reduce fluid drainage in the eyes; surgery may be required to close tear ducts; enjoy several servings of fish weekly to improve the fat surface in the tear film (liquid layer)  on the surface of your eyes

5. Diabetic Retinopathy – High blood sugar levels can cause blood vessels in the eyes to swell and leak, which may eventually lead to vision loss

  • Control diabetes – Keeping blood sugar levels under control can help prevent diabetic retinopathy; schedule regular eye examinations, as directed by your eye doctor; maintain a low-cholesterol diet; avoid smoking


Women: if you have experienced changes with your eyes, what treatment options have you adopted? – Karen Gustin, Ameritas Group

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