May 23, 2022
- Two out of every three Americans who are visually impaired are female?
- Women make up 2.6 of the 4.1 million Americans age 40 and above who are visually impaired or blind.
- Women are at higher risk for eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Let’s take a look at a few of the major factors.
Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are all driven by hormones, so they play a big factor. Recent studies have shown that fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone can affect vision and contribute to dry eye syndrome and glaucoma, especially after menopause.
Over 14% of the adult population suffers from migraines, a chronic neurological disease. Women in the United States have a cumulative lifetime migraine incidence of 43% while men have an incidence of only 18%. Hormones and structural differences in the brain contribute to women having longer attacks, increased recurrence, greater disability, and longer recovery times. Migraine is often accompanied by visual impairments such as photophobia, visual aura, and transient vision loss.
A woman's health journey during pregnancy presents unique circumstances, as the dramatic changes her body undergoes act as a stress test for future health, including her eye health. A woman may develop eye disease during this time that may or may not subside after the pregnancy. During pregnancy, for example, cellular immunity decreases, which can lead to autoimmune diseases, such as TED (thyroid eye disease), diabetes, obesity and hypertension which can continue to worsen postpartum.
Thyroid eye disease
Women are more likely to develop thyroid disorders or diseases after pregnancy and menopause, according to the American Thyroid Association. Graves' ophthalmopathy, also known as thyroid eye disease (TED), is an autoimmune inflammatory condition affecting the eye and surrounding tissues. There are 16 females affected by the disease for every 100,000 people, compared with 3 men per 100,000 people.
Many women function as caregivers for their children and elderly parents, with some studies showing they make up 60-75% of caregivers in the US. While caring for others, they often put their own needs, including health, aside. This makes comprehensive eye exams essential, especially after age 40.
Gender inequities in eye health
Women are under pressure to maintain their physical appearances, which often involves using cosmetics and personal care products that are under-regulated and have had significant negative effects on eye health, including contact dermatitis, bacterial infections, dry eyes, and other serious conditions.
- Contact lenses, particularly cosmetic lenses.
- Retinoids in anti-aging creams applied around the eye can affect the surrounding oil glands and contribute to dry eye disease.
- Eye makeup & enhancing eyelashes have become increasingly popular in recent years. Symptoms of dry eye and meibomian gland dysfunction are associated with them.
Women’s average life expectancy is 80 years compared to 73 years for men. This very simple factor means they will have more opportunity to experience degenerative vision loss in their later years.
Access to resources and healthcare:
According to researchers, the lack of access to health care for single mothers or elderly women is determined by where they live and how much they earn. The inability to obtain quality eye care is limited when one is uninsured, underinsured, or lives in poverty.
Steps to keep your eyes at their best
Know your family history:
Certain eye diseases can be inherited. If you have a close relative with macular degeneration, you have a 70 percent chance of developing it yourself. You are four to nine times more likely to develop glaucoma if you have a family history of the disease. Find out about your family members' eye conditions. Get your eyes checked and tell them about your family history to evaluate your risk.
Eat healthy foods:
The entire body benefits from a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, including the eyes. Among the eye-healthy foods are citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, and cold-water fish.
It is no secret that smoking increases the risk for eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Smoking also increases the risk for cardiovascular disease which can indirectly affect your eye health. Dry eyes are also exacerbated by tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke.
Ultraviolet UV light increases the risk of eye diseases, including cataracts, fleshy grow vmiddleths on the eye, and cancer. While spending time outdoors, wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection and a hat.
May is Women’s Health Month, so make a commitment to yourself to get an eye exam and look at developing healthy habits for better vision for a clear future.
If you are a woman over 40 we encourage you to start a new healthy habit and make an appointment at Island Retina for a yearly exam!