April is devoted to celebrating an often overlooked aspect of womanhood, healthy eyes. Prevent Blindness designates April as National Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, dedicated to spreading awareness of various eye health issues facing women around the world. This is in response to increasing evidence that women are affected by blindness and visual impairment to a much greater degree than their male counterparts. This is true whether at home or in need of better eye health at work.
According to the National Eye Institute, women have greater instances of eye disorders because they tend to live longer, are more likely to undergo certain cancer treatments that may affect vision, and experience normal age-related hormonal changes that may affect their eyes. Additionally, the American Academy of Ophthalmology states that in general, women are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases than men, many of which affect vision; such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and hyperthyroidism. Women have higher rates of eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Women also have a higher prevalence of Dry Eye, more common after menopause, affecting over 3.2 million women who are middle-aged and older, and may also experience changes in vision-related to pregnancy and menopause. A sudden surge in hormones during pregnancy may result in; dry eye, refractive errors, diabetic retinopathy, and puffy eyelids. While most of these conditions are temporary and will disappear post-delivery, expectant women should be aware of the signs and symptoms indicating a serious problem.
Protecting your eyes is an essential part of maintaining good health. Since vision problems are often caused by age-related eye conditions or eye diseases, taking care of your sight as you get older is particularly important.
We recommend many steps to protect vision and eye health to our patients, including:
- Getting annual eye exams.
- Eating Healthy. Numerous studies have shown that antioxidants can reduce the risk of cataracts. Antioxidants are obtained by eating a range of fruits and brightly coloured or dark green vegetables. Dark green vegetables have been shown to potentially reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Lifelong good nutrition is a key influencer of good health including your vision.
- Wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and a brimmed hat outdoors. When you’re out during the day, always wear sunglasses that block 100% of the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Appropriate protective lenses or coatings are particularly important on or near the water, at the beach, and while driving, where bright surfaces can cause potentially dangerous glare and reflections.
- Quitting smoking. The health dangers of smoking are well-known. Smoking also increases the risk of developing age-related eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Apart from reducing your risk of a whole host of diseases such as cancer and respiratory issues, smoking is the most important modifiable risk factor for AMD development and progression.
- Using eye cosmetics safely. Wash your hands first before putting on eye makeup. Keep all applicators clean and in good condition. If possible, do not reuse old applicators and opt for disposable types instead. Most importantly, do not ever sleep with your eye makeup on. Most women carry makeup in their purse or leave them inside the car. Kick this habit as soon as you can because extreme temperatures can break down the preservatives and make room for bacteria to grow. You do not want to dab bacteria into your eyes.
- Using contact lenses safely. Remove contact lenses before taking a bath, shower, swimming, or any activity that involves water getting in your eyes. Dispose of your contact lenses and buy a new pair if water comes in contact with your eyes while wearing them. This will help prevent acanthamoeba keratitis. Women are more likely to wear cosmetic contact lenses; Vision problems can arise though if these lenses are bought without a prescription from non-professionals. If you wish to wear these fashionable lenses, it is always best to consult with a licensed eye care professional first. If possible, do not wear contact lenses without the supervision of an eye care doctor. Also, never trade or share your contact lenses with your friends.
- Learn of any family history of eye disease. Be aware of your family’s health history and have regular physical check-ups. Do you or any members of your family suffer from diabetes or have a history of high blood pressure? Are you over the age of 65? Any of these traits can increase your risk of sight-threatening eye diseases or eye conditions.
- Get lenses with reflection-free (anti-glare) coatings as these aide visions by reducing glare on the lenses.
- Get anti-fatigue lenses like Hoya’s Sync range, they reduce eyestrain and have been developed specifically for screen use.
- Blue light filters can be incorporated in lenses to reduce exposure to the blue light emitted from LED screens and are recommended in conjunction with the filters now often found on phones and tablets. Spend less time looking at digital screens. Take regular breaks during computer work and invest in protective lens coatings such as For Digital Lifestyles, which neutralize the harmful blue light emitted by digital devices and television screens.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity is good for your eyes and your general health.
Expectant mothers and those going through menopause should be aware of possible vision changes.
Combating Eye Disease
- Expectant women with diabetes should see their eye doctor during pregnancy due to higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
- Poor control of blood sugar levels and elevated blood pressure levels can increase your risk of blindness resulting from cataracts or diabetic retinopathy. Aim to keep your blood pressure and blood sugar levels within normal range by keeping tabs of your health numbers and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Visit your licensed eye care doctor for a dilated eye exam. Diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration can be detected during a comprehensive dilated eye exam because it allows your doctor to check for leaking blood vessels, unusual changes in the lens, and damage to nerve tissues.
- Wear proper eye protection if your work involves high risks of eye injury.
Got a burning question on eye health issues that plague women? Get in touch with us today to schedule an appointment. Our wonderful team is committed to helping women (and men) of all ages maintain optimum eye health. We hope you have found these tips helpful. If you have any queries please don’t hesitate to ask us via email or contact our offices. We are currently still open and even if our office doors are closed, we plan to still be able to answer your queries, do emergency repairs, and provide advice on all things eyes related.
Please be mindful that as Coronavirus is transmittable through our eyes the need for good hygiene when touching in or around our eyes is paramount now more than ever.
Together we shall get through this.
To learn more about the measures we are taking to ensure your safety visit – https://www.eyeqjamaica.com/covid-19
Ministry of Health coronavirus fact sheet – Fact Sheet – COVID-19