Did you know that women are exponentially more likely to be diagnosed with vision-threatening diseases than men? Those diseases can include AMD, cataracts, dry eye syndrome, and more. How is this possible? Are female eyes really that different from male eyes? Here are some important statistics to drive this issue home:
- Three million women suffer from dry eye syndrome, compared to 1.7 million men
- Women make up 66 percent of the global blind population
- 65 percent of AMD cases are women
Across the globe, women are more likely to suffer blindness and vision loss. Of the common eye diseases, dry eye syndrome is two to three times more common in women. The reason? Many of the differences in our eyes come down to changes in hormones.
Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and certain forms of cataract, are more prevalent in women than in men. In fact, more than half of Americans age 80 and older have a cataract. But, for unknown reasons, women are at a higher risk of getting the cortical form of cataract.
Women’s Unique Vision Issues Increase with Age
These risks, as well as age-related afflictions such as macular degeneration, increase with age. One of the reasons they affect women more often is because women tend to live longer. In developing countries, infectious diseases such as trachoma are more prevalent in women. Perhaps because in those regions, women have less access to medical care than men. When women have access to healthcare, they tend to live longer but develop eye diseases. Without access to healthcare, diseases will still develop, just earlier. How is that fair?
As if that weren’t bad enough, the Mayo Clinic ophthalmology department found that sleep deprivation can lead to blurred vision and eye discomfort. If those conditions are allowed to persist, in chronic stages they can bring about major vision problems. One of which is glaucoma, the second most common cause of blindness.
While men, as well as women, suffer from sleep deprivation, Health Day News reports that women are in a category of their own.
Dr. Meir Kryger is the director of the Sleep Disorder Clinic at St. Boniface Hospital Research Center at the University of Manitoba. He notes that, “There are many sleep problems that men don’t ever have, like the sleepiness of pregnancy, waking up for breast-feeding, and hot flashes. Further, the most common sleep problem is insomnia, and in every single age group beginning at adolescence, women are two times more likely to have insomnia than are men.”
Added to that is the rise in single-family homes. In most of these cases, the children are living with the mother. This means more stress and less sleep for the mother. Both of these realities can lead to vision problems, either at the time or later in life.
How Can Women Protect Their Vision?
To help protect your vision and keep your eyes healthy, read and implement the following tips.
- Do not smoke
- Wear a hat or sunglasses when you are in the sun
- Avoid sunlamps and tanning booths
- Maintain a healthy diet, including lots of green vegetables
- Limit alcoholic drinks
- Keep diabetes under control
You should also be getting regular eye exams, especially after the age of 40. Since many eye diseases show up later in life, this is a crucial time for exams. Your eye doctor can spot the early signs of various eye diseases so you can get treatment right away.
The Good News
There are steps that women can take to reduce their risk of vision problems. Our eyes are exposed to many damaging elements throughout our lives. Some of these we can avoid with proper care. UV and UVB rays from the sun can cause damage to the retina of our eyes.
Making sure that you have sunglasses that block all of these rays is an easy and important step in protecting your vision. Wide-brimmed hats will help, but you should also wear sunglasses whenever you are outside.
Sleep is also an important aspect of eye health. When we sleep, our bodies attempt to repair the damage done. Lack of sleep means that there is less time for the healing to take place. You also must consider that if you aren’t sleeping, you’re probably doing something that involves your vision. It could be either working on a computer, watching television, or maybe reading a book.
These all put a strain on your eyes, especially if the lighting is bad. So, you’re not only not getting the benefit of sleep, you’re adding to already strained eyes.
Exercise is another important aspect of eye health. People who stay active are less likely to develop macular degeneration and other forms of age-related vision problems. So, make sure that you get your exercise today. Walk to the store or work if possible; take the stairs instead of the elevator and make time for a walk in the park. Your eyes will thank you. You never know, more exercise may even help you to sleep better.
We can’t emphasize too much the importance of a good diet when it comes to your vision health. However, we understand that you may not have the time, energy, or money to eat well every day. It’s crucial that you get all the necessary nutrients your eyes depend on to stay strong. So, consider another option besides strenuous meal planning and high grocery bills. Eye vitamins and supplements are a convenient option.
Of course, while these will work, improving your diet naturally is a better source for the nutrients your eye need. For more information about the foods high in these nutrients, see our post, “Natural Eye Health Starts and Ends with Your Diet.”
Women suffer a higher risk for many types of vision problems due to their hormones and access to healthcare. As a woman, you should make taking care of your vision a priority. But, women, men, and children can all benefit from these vision tips. It’s never too early or too late to start taking care of your eyes!