Your risk of getting eye problems depends on several factors, such as family history, age and existing medical conditions. Another thing that can influence your likelihood of getting eye issues is your gender. If you are at higher risk for vision problems, it is more important to visit your local eye clinic regularly. Doctors catch a lot of sight-threatening conditions during routine comprehensive eye exams.
A common question patients ask is if eye problems are more common in women than in men. Being a female indeed makes you more prone to developing certain eye conditions. Read on to learn more.
Why Are Women More Likely to Get Eye and Vision Problems?
Longer Lifespan than Men
Women usually live five years more than men. One reason for this is that females tend to make healthier lifestyle choices than the other sex. The World Health Organization says that women don’t usually suffer from a serious disease or injury until they reach 70. On the other hand, men typically live around 67 healthy years.
Since women have a longer lifespan, they are more likely to develop eye diseases. Age is a major risk factor for several eye and vision problems. Your risk of getting cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and dry eye syndrome increases as you age.
Puberty, pregnancy and menopause cause an increase in estrogen levels, which could impact vision. Some birth control pills can also have side effects on eyesight because of changing progesterone and estrogen levels. Hormonal fluctuations can cause dry eye syndrome. It’s an eye condition characterized by itchy, red and watery eyes. In some women, increased estrogen can cause blurred vision. It typically occurs during pregnancy, but vision tends to improve not long after birth.
An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system attacks itself and harms its tissues. Its specific cause remains unknown, but it’s been documented more in women than men, and 75% of people with autoimmune diseases are female, according to The National Institutes of Health.
Rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, Sjorgen’s syndrome and Graves disease are some of the most common autoimmune disorders affecting eye health. The conditions typically come with red eyes, pain, vision changes, vision loss and a sensation of having something in your eye.
Taking More Medications
Women usually take more prescription and over-the-counter medications than men. Plenty of these medications can affect your eye health and vision when taken in higher doses and for extended periods. Antimalarials, antihistamines, corticosteroids, antidepressants and antipsychotics are some medications that can affect your eyes. Be sure to speak with your eye specialist before taking any of them.
Common Eye Conditions in Women
Dry Eye Syndrome
Your eyes need sufficient quality tears to stay lubricated and nourished. They are necessary to keep the front surface of your eyes healthy and to maintain good vision. Tears expel foreign materials from the eyes, reducing the risk of infections.
If you don’t have enough tears to lubricate your eyes, you will experience symptoms of dry eye syndrome. Redness, watery eyes, light sensitivity, burning or stinging sensations and blurred vision characterize this eye condition. If you have it, you might also feel like something is in your eye or notice a stringy mucus. Your eye specialist might catch signs of dry eye during your comprehensive eye examination.
Dry eye syndrome occurs more in older adults. As women age, their bodies may create less oil, causing tears in the eyes to evaporate quickly. This eye condition is also more common during pregnancy and menopause due to the hormonal fluctuations they go through. Your doctor might prescribe hormone replacement therapy or fertility treatments to help you deal with hormonal changes. These treatments can cause corneal swelling and dry eyes.
Let your eye doctor know if you are experiencing hormonal fluctuations. They might prescribe lubricating eye drops to give you relief from dry eye. It would help to include food high in vitamins and minerals in your diet, including leafy greens, whole grains, citrus fruits and lean meats.
A leading cause of vision loss, glaucoma refers to the group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. Its symptoms manifest gradually, and many people are unaware they have it. Getting a comprehensive eye exam is the only way this eye condition can be detected in its early stages. While there remains no cure for glaucoma, early detection and treatment can help maintain good vision.
Open-angle glaucoma can occur in both men and women. However, females have four times the risk of closed-angle glaucoma. This type of glaucoma is more serious and happens when the iris bulges. It can result in complete blockage of the drainage angle. When this happens, fluids in the eyes won’t circulate properly, and eye pressure will increase. This more severe type of glaucoma can occur suddenly or gradually.
To catch glaucoma early, be sure to see your eye doctor regularly. They can assess the inside of your eye during a comprehensive eye exam and see early signs of this eye condition. They might prescribe eye drops to lower eye pressure if you are at high risk for glaucoma. Moreover, let your specialist know if you notice changes in your vision or eyes. You might need surgery due to improve fluid drainage and relieve eye pressure.
Over half of Americans aged 80 and older have cataracts or have undergone surgery to remove them. If you have a cataract, you might not know about it until vision changes occur. This eye condition can cause a person to experience hazy, blurry or less vibrant vision. It can also make everyday tasks difficult, such as reading and driving. Luckily, cataracts can be removed safely through surgery. After the procedure, patients will see an improvement in their vision.
Cataracts are a top cause of irreversible vision loss worldwide. Women are more likely to have them because of their longer life expectancy. You can slow its progression or avoid it by making sure you’re wearing ultraviolet (UV) blocking sunglasses when going outside. Doing so will protect against the sun’s UV rays which can contribute to cataract development.
Staying at a healthy weight reduces the risk of health conditions that can cause cataracts, including high blood pressure and diabetes. Eating nourishing meals and food high in antioxidants is vital to keeping your eyes healthy. It’s also helpful to quit smoking since it heightens the risk of cataracts.
Another leading cause of vision loss in older adults is macular degeneration. It typically occurs in individuals older than 40. It slowly causes damage to the retina, the part of the eye responsible for giving you sharp, detailed vision. Like cataracts, it affects more females than males due to longer lifespans.
Experts have yet to discover the specific causes of this eye condition. However, experts found that it runs in the family. Notify your eye doctor immediately if you notice changes in your vision. Moreover, you can protect your eyes from macular degeneration by eating meals with low-fat meats and at least two servings of fish weekly. Daily movement of around 30 minutes, 5 days a week will also benefit individuals at risk of macular degeneration.
High blood sugar levels can cause swelling in the back of the eyes. Leaks can also occur, which could eventually lead to reduced vision. It’s a common indication of diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. This eye condition affects both sexes and nearly half of individuals with diabetes get it.
If you have diabetes or high blood sugar, keep your insulin levels at bay. You can manage your blood sugar by choosing healthier food options and avoiding ones high in sugar and cholesterol. People with diabetes should also limit alcohol consumption, exercise regularly and monitor their blood sugar levels.