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

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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