Numerous studies have shown that women tend to live longer than men. From birth to death, women seem to have a leg up on men when it comes to overall health. Aging men are more likely to develop heart disease, gum disease and Parkinson’s disease, just to name a few. But what about men’s eye health?
The opposite has been found when it comes to eye health. Women are at a much higher risk of developing vision impairments than men in old age, except in certain cases.
As we age, our eyesight will no doubt deteriorate. And while female eyes tend to lose stamina more quickly, that doesn’t mean that aging male eyes aren’t at risk. In fact, there are a few eye diseases that mostly affect men.
Let’s take a look at what to look out for, how to treat certain vision conditions and how to take care of men’s eye health as they age.
Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
Primary open-angle glaucoma, or POAG, is probably the most common type of glaucoma in men. It will likely begin to develop over the age of 40. POAG is a sneaky disease because it will often develop without warning and most men are not aware that they have it until it’s too late.
This type of glaucoma is caused by an imbalance of fluid in the eye. Sometimes too much fluid is produced so it can’t drain at a normal rate. Sometimes a normal amount is produced, but the draining in the eyes is slowed down when it becomes blocked. The former is the more common cause.
Regardless of the cause, the bottom line is that too much pressure builds up in the eye. There is always pressure in the eye, called intraocular pressure (IOP). When the IOP becomes too much, it presses down on optic nerves that transmit messages to the brain, which can be a big problem when it comes to the health of the eyes.
Losing Your Vision to POAG
As the pressure builds, men with POAG will experience vision loss. Normally you will notice a decline, then a loss of peripheral vision. This loss of vision will then work its way toward your central vision and could lead to complete blindness.
Though peripheral vision is incredibly important for doing activities like driving and accessing dangers (i.e. when crossing the street or playing a sport), our central vision is our main line of sight.
When the central vision is affected, it normally means that permanent damage to the eye has been done. The chances of reversing blindness in our central vision are slim to none.
The best way for aging men to avoid permanent damage to the eyes due to POAG is to get regular comprehensive eye exams. These eye exams will spot early signs of POAG to better treat it and hopefully prevent blindness.
Glaucoma is sometimes treated with eye drops or medication to keep the IOP under control. In most cases, this does the job. But in some more severe or developed cases, glaucoma surgery may be needed to lower the dangerously high IOP. Talk to your doctor to find the best option for you.
Ocular rosacea is an irritant that occurs on the eyelids. Though more women experience mild versions of ocular rosacea, men between the ages of 30 and 60 are much more likely to develop severe cases of the condition.
If you’ve noticed rosacea on your cheeks and nose, it could mean you’re at risk of developing ocular rosacea. Ocular rosacea can cause inflammation around and on the eyelids, dry eyes, and in severe cases, corneal inflammation.
When ocular rosacea makes its way to the cornea, it may lead to a corneal ulcer, which can then lead to bacteria and infection. When left untreated, this ulcer can puncture the eye, causing numerous complications, including irreversible blindness.
Fortunately, the treatment for ocular rosacea is easy to do at home but will require some dedication. So men, you better make some time to pamper yourselves with a daily eyelid hygiene routine! Often, doctors will recommend cleaning the eyelid with a Q-tip dipped in diluted baby shampoo, but some will simply tell you to use plain old tap water.
Some severe cases may call for a treatment that requires taking a prescribed antibiotic alongside applying an antibiotic-steroid ointment. The amount of time you’ll need to take these antibiotics will vary from case to case. Again, talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
Eye Cancer/Eye Melanoma
Eye cancer, or more specifically eye melanoma, is incredibly common in men. A man’s risk of developing this disease only increases with age. Eye melanoma is found in the cells that produce melanin, which is the pigment that gives your eyes color.
What causes eye melanoma is still not entirely known. However, it is clear that it’s caused by a DNA error within the melanin cells. This error tells cells to multiply uncontrollably and lets the mutated cells live, when normally they would die. The mutated cells build up and cause melanoma.
Some symptoms of eye melanoma are:
- Loss of vision in one eye
- Growing dark spots on the iris
- Seeing flashing lights
- Floaters in your vision
It is recommended to see a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
Eye melanoma normally forms inside the eye and on the whites of the eye. However, in rare cases, melanoma may form on the front layer of the eye called the conjunctiva, or sometimes even on the eyelids.
Treating Eye Melanoma
Because melanoma can affect almost every part of your eye, treatments depend heavily on where the cancer is located and its size.
If the eye melanoma is small and does not continue to grow, the only treatment you may need is to monitor it with your doctor. If it continues to grow, your doctor may suggest surgery.
At some point, it may be necessary to have the melanoma surgically removed. In some extreme cases, the whole eye may have to be removed.
Another treatment is radiation therapy. Over the course of five days, a plaque the size of a bottle cap is placed over your eye as the radiation targets the melanoma. This treatment is typically used for medium-sized melanoma.
Though it is not certain what causes eye melanoma, doctors always recommend wearing sunglasses and hats whenever out in the sun. This will help protect your eyes and skin from cancer.
Taking Extra Care to Protect Men’s Eye Health
As we get older, our bodies can’t bounce back quite as quickly, which means we need to take extra care. Paying special attention to your eye health is especially important in order to prevent blindness and other debilitating age-related eye diseases.