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5 Reasons Why Women are at Higher Risk of Eye Disease

April is Women’s Eye Health & Safety Month, and while many women may do a great job of exercising, eating right and monitoring their overall health, they are still more likely than men to suffer from eye-related diseases.Here are 5 conditions women (and men alike) should be aware of:

Eye Trauma
The most common eye injury with a cosmetic is a jab to the eye by a mascara wand. While this unfortunate (and irritating) incident may not necessarily result in serious injury, it’s important to use common sense when judging if you should visit your eye doctor. “The eye is uniquely protected by the bony orbit but still can be injured, threatening your vision,” said Daniel L. Mannen, OD, FAAO, a VSP Vision Care optometrist in St. Helens, Ore. “Further, injuries on the inside cannot be seen from the outside without dilation that occurs during a comprehensive eye exam.” Persistent discomfort from trauma or debris should be evaluated by your eye doctor.

As the world’s leading cause of blindness, cataracts—or cloudy areas in the eye’s lenses—typically appear in people over 40. Women of African-American descent are at an even higher risk for cataracts. To help protect your vision, it’s important to wear sunglasses, eat healthy foods and control your blood sugar. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. So, in addition to healthy lifestyle habits, it’s vital to receive annual comprehensive eye exams.

This condition causes damage to the optic nerve, resulting in the buildup of pressure behind the eye. It generally shows up after 40 and worsens over time. While there are treatments to help symptoms, there is no cure for glaucoma. Men and women alike can get it, and it tends to be an inherited disease. But a recent study showed taking birth control pills can increase women’s risk of glaucoma later in life. While more research needs to be done, the important thing to remember is that seeing your eye doctor regularly is imperative.

Not only are women at a greater risk for many eye diseases, they are also at risk for other health conditions that impact their vision, including:

More than 12 million women aged 20 years or older have diabetes, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This disease increases the risk for developing eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy. People with diabetes also frequently experience light sensitivity, difficulty distinguishing colors in low lighting and trouble driving at night.

Autoimmune Diseases
Women are more likely to develop several autoimmune diseases that can impact the eyes, such as:

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS), which often causes temporary burning in the eyes or even vision loss.
  • Lupus, which can cause dry eyes, inflammation of the white outer layer of the eyeball and blood vessel changes in the retina.
  • Sjögren’s Syndrome, which dries out moisture-producing glands in the body. Of the one million people in the United States with Sjögren’s, 90 percent are women.

Both women and men should care for their eyes. The best way to protect yourself from serious health and vision problems is to get an annual eye exam so that, regardless of your gender, you are in the best health possible.

By Dave Johnston


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