It might surprise you to know that two out of every three people living with blindness or low vision worldwide are women, or that women have a higher risk than men to experience several serious vision conditions. April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, and is the perfect time to increase awareness of the heightened risk women share regarding these vision problems.
Some eye health issues are unique to women, such as experiencing vision changes caused by hormonal variations during pregnancy and menopause, but women are more susceptible than men to glaucoma, cataracts, thyroid eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and have a higher prevalence for dry eye disease than men. On average women live longer than men, so that might be one reason why we see a greater number of women with eye disorders due to aging such as cataracts and AMD, but that is not the full story. Even adjusting for age, estimates show women still outnumber men with these conditions. Further, women are more likely than men to undergo cancer treatments and to develop autoimmune diseases, both of which can have can have damaging effects on vision.
Women often make the healthcare decisions for their family and loved ones and are frequently tasked with the responsibility of taking children or elderly parents or relatives to appointments. Because of this responsibility, work schedules, children’s activities, and an overall busy lifestyle, women may put off or skip important appointments for their own healthcare, including annual eye exams.
An annual eye exam is one of the most important things you can do not only for your vision, but your overall health. An eye exam will help detect many of the ocular diseases and conditions to which women are more prone even before they begin to severely impair vision, but also may catch the early signs of many other diseases such as diabetes, brain tumor, lupus, and multiple sclerosis, to name a few. And simply having the correct prescription for your glasses or contact lenses can positively impact your health and well-being. An incorrect prescription can lead to headaches, nausea or dizziness, eye strain, and muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, all of which can increase stress in an already stressful life!
Awareness, education, and prevention are the keys to healthy vision. Simple steps or lifestyle changes can positively impact your vision, such as:
- Have annual eye exams;
- Get regular physical check-ups;
- Exercise or stay active;
- Maintain a healthy weight;
- Do not smoke;
- Wear sunglasses that block UVA and UVB radiation;
- Be aware of any family history of AMD, glaucoma, diabetes, or any other condition that can affect vision;
- Eat a healthy well-balanced diet of foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, and E, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
Eating well is not only great for your overall health, it is directly linked to healthier eyes. Good examples of foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are fish, such as mackerel and salmon, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. Foods high in vitamins A, C, and E are spinach, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash, and great choices for lutein and zeaxanthin are spinach, peas, and pistachios. Don’t see any of your favorites listed here? Don’t worry, there are many foods that are high in these important nutrients, so there will be some to suit any preference. Also check out our delicious eye-healthy recipes that are full of good-for-you and good-for-your-eyes ingredients!
Many eye conditions and diseases are preventable or treatable, and Midwest Eye Consultants has several resources and recommendations to help you live an eye-healthy life. Join us in celebrating Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month by becoming aware of the unique issues surrounding vision health for women, and how you can maintain and preserve your vision for years to come. It is important that women and their loved ones are educated on the differences and increased risks women have over men for certain eye diseases and conditions and how lifestyle changes and eye exams can help improve the lives and vision of women.
As a parent, caretaker, worker, chauffeur, (the list goes on!), your eyes take care of so many people and so many things every day – take care of your eyes by always getting your annual eye exam. Click today to schedule your exam!