Ladies, we’ve got some good news and bad news for you. We won’t beat around the bush so here’s the bad news: according to Prevent Blindness, women make up the majority of Americans over the age of 40 to be visually impaired or blind.
Unfortunately, due to a variety of biological factors that no woman has control over, it makes you more at risk to develop certain vision conditions such as cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, dry eyes and puffy eyes.
Now for the good news: it doesn’t have to happen to you. Sure, there are things like menopause and pregnancy that cause hormones to imbalance and cause your body to react in strange ways. But when it comes to the eyes, there are ways to avoid the wrath of hormones to protect them in the long run.
One of the major players in a woman’s health is hormones. Hormone imbalances can occur during pregnancy, menstrual cycles, menopause, or even during bouts of stress in a woman’s life. This imbalance can affect a woman’s body in more ways than just bloating or an acne breakout.
In fact, hormone imbalances can actually affect a woman’s eye health. Sometimes a hormone imbalance can be the underlying cause of certain eye conditions like dry eyes in pregnant women. The two biggest factors to cause hormonal changes in a woman’s life are pregnancy and menopause, so let’s break these down a little more.
Pregnancy and Vision
You’ve found out that you’re pregnant, congratulations! You pick up as many pregnancy books as you can find and thus begins your new healthy, pregnant lifestyle. You start eating better, drinking lots of water, going for regular check-ups with your doctor, avoiding that glass of wine no matter how much you may want it…
But you’re likely forgetting about your eyes. There’s so much to worry about when you’re pregnant that your vision health doesn’t even take a back seat to your baby’s health; instead, you’ve stored it away in the trunk and have forgotten about it.
But what’s our job, if not to remind you to take care of your eyes! Pregnancy can lead to a whole slew of vision problems.
For instance, because your body tends to retain more water when pregnant, the curvature of your eyes may change. This means that if you wear glasses, your prescription may change. But your vision will likely restore itself once the baby is born. In this case, a trip to the pharmacy to pick up some temporary glasses may be your best option.
Prevent Dry Eyes
Changes like this are minor, but not all of them are as harmless. Dry eyes is another common condition in pregnant women. This condition is a result of a hormone imbalance, which affects the tear ducts of the eyes. Tear production is often slowed down, causing irritated and sometimes burning eyes.
A way to relieve yourself of these symptoms is to purchase natural eye drops to lubricate the eyes. However, these drops often only provide an immediate but temporary relief.
If you’re looking for a more permanent (but slower acting) remedy, getting more fatty acids in your diet can be a big help. The fatty acid you’re going to want to look into is omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s reduce eye inflammation and increase tear production.
Omega-3s can be found in:
- Omega-3 supplements
- Flaxseed (oil and ground flaxseed)
- Chia seeds
Fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are all great sources of omega-3 fatty acids as well. However, eating fish isn’t normally recommended during pregnancy because of the potentially dangerous mercury levels. Talk to your doctor before eating any fish while pregnant.
Prevent Diabetic Retinopathy
Sometimes pregnancy can worsen existing conditions like diabetes. If you have diabetes while pregnant, you increase your risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. However, sometimes the condition can develop in women who don’t have existing diabetes because their blood pressure or blood sugar is off.
That’s why it’s so important for pregnant women (especially diabetic women) to have their eyes checked before getting pregnant or in the early stages. Regular eye check-ups are highly recommended to monitor the blood cells in the retina.
A couple of ways to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to stay on top of your blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and see your eye doctor immediately if you notice any significant vision changes. Getting light and non-strenuous exercise can also help regulate the pressures in the body.
Menopause and Vision
Much like with pregnant women, menopausal women also often suffer from dry eyes which is thought to be due to hormone changes and imbalances. However unlike pregnancy, the connection between menopause hormones and dry eyes is not well understood.
In fact, women who go through hormonal therapy during menopause don’t often see any improvement in their dry eyes condition. Though the true cause of dry eyes during menopause is still being studied, the same natural remedies as listed above can be used safely and non-invasively.
Postmenopausal women can be at severe risk of developing more serious vision conditions such as AMD, cataracts and glaucoma. Generally, women are more likely to develop these conditions during middle and old age than men. Doctors believe the reason for this is because of the falling estrogen levels.
The only real way to prevent these vision conditions after menopause is to have your eyes checked at the very least once a year. If you have an existing condition or develop a condition that needs monitoring, two appointments per year is the bare minimum.
A big part of the reason why women are more likely to lose their vision over time is because of the sometimes abrupt and severe hormone changes. When the body can’t get used to the changes quick enough, the eyes suffer. To avoid losing your vision, talk to your doctor about it and take care of your body.