Less than 10 percent of women are aware that they are at a greater risk of suffering from permanent vision loss. The vast majority of women feel they have the same risk as men. This is simply not the case and women need to be aware so they can help prevent vision loss. April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month and as such, it is the perfect time to shed light on the topic of women’s vision loss.
According to the National Eye Institute, 3.5 million Americans age 40 and up suffer from visual impairment. Women account for 2.3 million of those cases. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that women account for 64.5% of all visually impaired people worldwide. The two biggest culprits for causing vision loss are cataracts and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). In fact, 61% of all people with cataracts and 65% of all people with AMD are women.
The biggest question to be asked is why women are at a greater risk of vision loss and what can be done to prevent it. There are several things that can be attributed to women’s higher rate of vision loss. To begin, women live longer. It has long been known that the longer you live, the more likely you are to develop a variety of health conditions. This includes age-related vision loss.
Another reason women are more susceptible to vision loss is their fluctuating hormones. Pregnancy, menopause, and the use of birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy can adversely affect ocular health. In fact, 61% of menopausal and perimenopausal women suffer from dry eyes due to hormonal changes.
Other reasons that can women can experience vision loss include
- Diabetes: 1 in 10 women over the age of 20 have this disease, which increases the risk of several eye conditions including diabetic retinopathy.
- Smoking – Smoking can cause many health problems and significantly increases one’s risk of developing AMD and cataracts.
- Medications – Certain medications can have serious side effects on the eyes and should be avoided when the benefits do not outweigh the risks.
- Lifestyle choices – Poor diet and a lack of exercise can not only negatively affect one’s overall health, it can also cause permanent vision problems.
While we cannot stop the aging process, we can take steps towards protecting our health and our vision. This includes eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly. It means not smoking and wearing sunglasses to protect eyes from UV damage. Lastly, it means having regular comprehensive eye examinations with an eye care professional.