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What Women Need to Know About Eye Health

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According to Women’sEyeHealth.org, ⅔ of blindness and visual impairment occurs in women. Additionally, an estimated 75% of visual impairment is preventable or correctable with proper education and care. With the increased risks for women it’s critical for women to know about the risks and prevention to effectively protect their eyes and vision.

There are a number of specific eye diseases, many of which cause vision impairment, that are more prevalent in women. Part of the reason for this is that women tend to live longer than men. These risks are exacerbated by often avoidable behavioral and environmental conditions such as smoking, poor diet and nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle and sun exposure to name a few.

Research shows that some of the statistics showing that women are at a higher risk of certain vision-threatening conditions depend on the living conditions and access to health care of the population being studied. Nevertheless, other eye conditions such as dry eye syndrome, autoimmune diseases related to the eyes (such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s Syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis) and cataracts are inherently more prevalent in women than men. Furthermore, women are more at risk for diseases associated with age, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), since they statistically live a few years longer than men.

Here are some facts about a few of the common eye diseases that women in particular should be aware of.

  1. Cataracts.

Cataracts are when the lens of the eye becomes clouded causing vision loss and eventually blindness if not treated. Nevertheless, treatment for the condition, which is usually a minor surgery, is very common and highly successful. An age-related condition, more than half of North Americans age 65 and older have at least one cataract.  While longer life expectancy is a factor, women also have been found to be intrinsically more at risk for developing cataracts.

While it is likely that most people that live long enough will eventually develop a cataract, there are a few things that can increase your chances such as smoking, and possibly diet and sun exposure. If you have diabetes, maintaining proper blood sugar levels might play a role in prevention. Scheduling a yearly, comprehensive eye exam is the best way to catch and treat cataracts early to prevent vision loss.

  1. Dry Eye Disease

Dry eye disease is a condition in which the eye does not create enough lubricating tear film to keep the surface moist and comfortable. While it doesn’t lead to blindness, dry eye can cause severe suffering and affect quality of life. It can also increase the chances of infection and  impair visual acuity leading to decreased ability to read and drive, particularly at night.  The condition is most common in middle aged and older adults, particularly women and is one of the leading causes of visits to the eye doctor.

Severe dry eye is sometimes caused by Sjögren’s syndrome, which is a chronic, multi-organ autoimmune disorder that also results in dry mouth and often arthritis, which is much more common in women.  

Dry eye disease is intrinsically 2-3 times more common in women than in men, which may be may be because of hormonal differences, and the use of birth control can result in increased dry eye as well.

There are a number of treatments available for dry eyes, including artificial tear solutions, ointments, anti-inflammatories and sometimes inserting tear duct plugs.

  1. Age-related Macular Degeneration and Glaucoma

For both of these vision threatening diseases, age is the greatest risk factor, making the risk higher for women who statistically live longer. Women are twice as likely to develop AMD as men.  African Americans are at higher risk for glaucoma, making black women over the age of 60, one of the highest risk groups for the disease.  Family history is also a strong risk factor.

The best way for women to keep their eyes and vision intact is to have a comprehensive eye exam every year and to take care of themselves by not smoking, wearing UV protective eyewear, maintaining proper nutrition and exercise. Because many of these diseases don’t show symptoms until it is too late, early detection is essential to eye health.  

Bonus Info: Pregnancy and Eyesight

Pregnancy can affect a woman’s vision, though the changes are often temporary. Although it’s definitely recommended for women with gestational diabetes to have diabetic retinopathy screenings, and it is generally safe to have a routine eye exam while you’re expecting, you should know that your prescription may not be “guaranteed” as it is subject to change until about 6 weeks after the yet-to-be-born baby stops nursing.

Many women complain that their contact lenses feel uncomfortable during pregnancy. The eye contours can shift due to hormones and swelling, so the lens might not fit the same way. You may want to try a different type of contact, or switch to glasses for a few months.

Thank you for trusting your eyecare with us over the years.  The Foresight Eyecare team follows the government mandate to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.  After December 2020 announcements made by the Alberta Government, our clinic is following the revised Infection Prevention and Control policy by the Alberta College of Optometrists.

Patients interested in obtaining eye exam services or eye care products can be seen by appointment only.  Please call ahead, and staff will arrange an appointment time and ask COVID-19 screening questions.  If you have any symptoms of cough, fever, runny nose or shortness of breath, we ask that you call or e-mail us and do not attend the clinic for your scheduled visit.   Within the clinic, please wear a mask and use the hand sanitizer at reception.  Our clinic complies with the City of Calgary bylaw requiring mask covering over the age of two years old.  For patients who are unable to wear a face covering due to medical reasons, the patient can be scheduled for an appointment at a time when minimal number of other patients are in the clinic such as at the beginning or end of the day to ensure appropriate physical distancing requirements.

We are using disposable disinfectant wipes on all surfaces and devices such as front desk counters, chairs, handles in exam rooms and waiting room.  All eyewear that have been touched by patients are continually being sanitized.   Any toys and magazines are stored at this time.  Examination areas are being sanitized with hospital grade disinfectant.  Debit and credit cards but NO CASH payments will be accepted.

COVID-19 symptoms are not always obvious.  We want to fend off this pandemic and minimize risk to our patients and the Foresight staff as front line health workers.   Contact that is closer than 2 m (6 feet) is to be avoided, with barriers in place when this cannot be avoided. We choose to continue to do our work and cautiously take care of our patients with compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience.   It is a challenging and new experience for many of us, so let‘s support each other and prevent virus spread!  Beyond 2020, our focus is on take care of you and keeping Clean Hands, Clear Heads and Open Hearts.   For more information, please refer to the following web pages or phone Health Link 811.

www.albertahealthservices.ca

www.collegeofoptometrists.ab.ca

Drs. Dianna Leong, Anh Bui, Andrew Chan

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Starting tomorrow December 22nd will be closed through December 26th. Additionally, we will be closing early on New Year’s eve at 3:00 pm and we will reopen Saturday, January 2nd.

We wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.