The bad news for women this April – which has been designated Women’s Eye Health Month – is that their half of the population faces a higher likelihood of glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, two leading causes of blindness. One study by the National Eye Institute (NEI) reports that two-thirds of the cases of U.S. blindness occur in women.
The good news? Likelihood of those diseases rises as we get older, and the people likeliest to suffer most are over 80. Statistics from 2017 show that women 85 and up outnumber men of that age almost 2 to 1. So the imbalance in vision problems is due mostly to longevity.
Women’s Eye Health & Disease
Other factors do contribute to gender-based eye problems. The most common form of cancer in America is breast cancer, usually in women. Certain treatments can have a harmful effect on eye health. Women are less likely to get infectious diseases than men but more likely to get autoimmune diseases.. These diseases, which include arthritis and multiple sclerosis, can also affect the eyes.
Further, women are twice as likely as men to develop Dry Eye Disease. Dry Eye Disease is a group of disorders caused by the inability to produce enough tears with sufficient lubrication. Women who are experiencing menopause have increased risk, as do women on hormone replacement therapy.
However, women do better than men in other ways. Traditionally, they’re more willing to see doctors regularly, meaning eye problems can be caught early and treated quickly. Your eye doctor may, in fact, see symptoms indicating an autoimmune disorder or diabetes. In this case, he or she will likely refer you to a primary care physician for diagnosis.
Women & Sports Eye Safety
April is also Sports Eye Safety Month, so it’s important to note that females suffer fewer eye traumas than males. Children 14 and under are most likely to be injured playing baseball, while the leading cause of sports-related eye injuries for anyone between 15 and 64 is basketball. Boys aged 11 to 15 are up to five times more likely than girls of that age to sustain eye injuries requiring hospital treatment; leading causes range from guns to darts to sticks and stones.
Advice for Both Women & Men
Men’s and women’s eyes are made of the same material and operate in the same way, so the same wise advice applies to both genders.
Quit smoking cigarettes. Smoking always makes eye problems worse, and women do slightly better than men here, too. According to a 2015 study by the National Institutes of Health, 13.6 percent of adult women smoke vs. 16.7 percent of adult men.
Eat a healthier plant-based diet. Dark leafy vegetables like spinach and kale and dark orange vegetables such as carrots and sweet potatoes are particularly beneficial. Try to eat fish at least once a week. Get more exercise. Use sunglasses and/or a hat when you’re outdoors in bright sunlight, and put them on children, too. Wear eye protection when taking part in any activity that might imperil your vision. And not just during activities that pose obvious threats, such as working around wood or metal chips, but hazards from watersports to fireworks.
Schedule An Eye Exam Today
Most crucially, have your eyes checked regularly. Your physician can best tell you how frequently. The general rule is to go every two years if you have no personal or family history of eye disease. Go annually if you have such a history, are over 65 or wear contact lenses, which come with their own potential difficulties. The faster a problem gets detected, the more effectively your doctor can treat it.