OptomEyesLife teaches women around the world how to care for their eyes while also becoming the healthiest, most successful versions of themselves possible. As April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, my goal for this article is to educate fellow women about the top five eye conditions we are at higher risk for, and highlight healthy habits we can adopt today to help preserve our eye health and vision in the future.
Top 5 Women's Eye Health Concerns
Up to 80 percent of blindness and vision impairment can be prevented through early detection and treatment. Therefore, women need to know what their risks are and learn ways to preserve their vision. Here are five eye conditions that women are at an increased risk of developing:
1. Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is twice as common in women than it is in men. This is likely due to hormonal factors — particularly when the body experiences changes in hormone levels, such as during pregnancy, nursing, or menopause. Women who use oral contraceptives or are on hormone replacement therapy are more likely to experience symptoms. According to the National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute, women taking only estrogen are 70 percent more likely to experience dry eye, and those taking estrogen and progesterone have a 30 percent increased risk of developing the condition.
2. Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Studies have shown that women are more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In 2016, epidemiologists found that the majority of diagnosed incident cases of AMD occurred in women (65.76%). According to the American Medical Macular Degeneration Foundation and the National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute, women are more susceptible to AMD than men because they live approximately 5 percent longer than men.
Also due to a longer life expectancy, studies have shown that women have a higher prevalence of cataracts. In addition, it has been hypothesized that hormonal imbalance due to a decrease in estrogen levels after menopause may also contribute to cataract development. Studies suggest that post-menopausal estrogen therapy can the reduce risk of cataracts in women, According to data published by the National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute in 2010, 61 percent of Americans with cataract were women; 39 percent were men.
As another age-related eye disease, glaucoma affects more women than men. Women are at higher risk for angle closure glaucoma, likely due to anatomical predisposition, and normal tension glaucoma, but results are inconclusive when it comes to primary open angle glaucoma. There is some evidence suggesting that estrogen might be protective of the optic nerve by influencing intraocular pressure (IOP) and vascular resistance. Research has shown that IOP decreases during pregnancy and fluctuates with a woman's menstrual cycle. However, if a woman enters menopause at a younger age, her risk for glaucoma increases. It is hypothesized that decreased estrogen exposure is associated with an increased risk of developing open angle glaucoma, however studies have yielded inconsistent results.
Papilledema (swelling of the optic nerve due to increased intracranial pressure) is commonly a sign of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (pseudotumor cerebri). It is 20 times more common in obese women of childbearing age (20 to 44 years). A moderate increase in body weight (by an additional 5-15% within a year) also increases one's risk of developing IIH, regardless of starting weight. While the role of hormones is not understood, it seems to occur during hormonal changes, such as pregnancy, the start of oral contraceptives (birth control pills), the first menstrual period, or menopause.
Related Post: Why Are Women at Higher Risk of Visual Impairment?
Healthy Eye Habits + Tips for Women
While these eye-related health risks that affect women are primarily due to age, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk of developing these serious eye conditions. Here's a list of tips and healthy habits us women can incorporate in our routines to help protect our eyes from damage:
+ Have an annual comprehensive eye exam with dilation to rule out early signs of ocular and systemic disease.
+ Ask your family about their eye health history, as certain conditions may be inherited and you may need to have more frequent eye examinations to monitor for changes.
+ Always protect your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses while outdoors and avoiding tanning beds. Add an extra element of style (and protection) to your outfit with a wide-brimmed hat. For even more EyeStyle, check out the new fashionable style colors and mirrors by Transitions lenses.
+ Get your beauty rest (aim for 7 to 9 hours a night) to reduce the appearance of dark under-eye circles.
+ Practice forms of self care and relaxation to decrease your stress levels, as stress can cause temporary blurring of vision, eyelid twitching, eye strain, and dry eye.
+ Quit smoking, as it significantly increases your risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
+ Use caution with cosmetics and beauty products, especially near the eye, as many contain harmful ingredients that can damage the ocular surface. Always remove your eye makeup nightly. Never share makeup with others. Clean your makeup brushes often and replace eye makeup products approximately every 3 months to avoid infection.