In honor of Mother’s Day, I will discuss women and eye health. There are many diseases that cause vision loss. The most common diseases are: age-related macular-degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. According to Prevent Blindness America, which is a volunteer organization that fights blindness and saves sight, the amount of Americans with age-related eye disease is expected to double in the next three decades. They also said that of the 4.1 million people who are older than 40 and have poor eyesight or are blind, 2.6 million of them are women.
Here are some facts about women vs. men when it comes to eye health. In America, women are living longer than men. The United States Census Bureau data shows that there are double the amount of women living over the age of 85, while men are dying younger. Since women are outliving men, women are naturally more prone to developing age-related eye disease.
In addition to the four most common eye diseases, women are more likely to have refractive errors such as near/far sightedness and astigmatism. These can cause significant vision problems but easily treatable with contact lenses, glasses or procedures such as LASIK. To figure out if you have refractive errors, doctors look at three things: the length of the eye, the shape of the cornea and the shape of the lens. The only changes throughout life with these three variables are lens changes as people age. Many women let the early stages of the lens change, also known as cataracts, go untreated.
Another difference between women and men and their eyesight is that more women have dry eyes. It can be a result of a decline in vision, in addition to irritation, redness and pain. The eyes are lubricated by tears that are made by glands on the exterior of the eye. The glands of the eyelids contribute a crucial part to tears to make them more effective. Dry-eye syndrome can be a consequence from both a fewer amount of tears being produced in addition to unusual tear formation.
Many more research studies show that the glands of the eyes and eyelids are impacted by hormone issues. As women age, especially as they reach menopausal age, their hormones are imbalanced and it could be another reason for dry eyes. It was once thought that hormone-replacement therapy would be beneficial, but further studies showed that it can make the dry eyes worse.
Long-term dry eyes are often an unrecognized, unattended part of the aging process and are becoming a health issue affecting both the quality of life as well as the physical health of nearly 10 million Americans each year. Although dry eyes can happen in men and women, women are affected two to three times more often, especially during and post menopausal years.
Wishing all moms a wonderful Mother’s Day, and be sure to consult an eye doctor as soon as you feel something is wrong with your eyes!
By Maty Youngewirth, OD
Maty Youngewirth is an optometrist with Vision Plus.