There are several eye conditions which are more common in women than they are in men, including cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and dry eye. Upon hearing this statistic, it seems totally unfair that women have been dealt a bad hand of eye-health cards. Is the myth in fact, true, that women are from Venus and men are from Mars?
Not quite. When you look at the environmental factors, amongst other reasons, it is not that there is anything fundamentally different about men and women, but simply that women are statistically shown to engage in activities which make them more prone to these conditions.
This blog is going to unpack the main conditions to which women are more susceptible. More importantly, it will explain the six main reasons why women fall into this higher risk group, due to certain habits or environmental factors.
Cataracts develop as both men and women age. Therefore, it is practically inevitable that all men and women will develop cataracts if they live long enough to grow into their old age. Cataracts form a cloudiness on the lens, making your vision blurry and producing a glare at night.
In most cases, but not all, Glaucoma comes about without the patient noticing it. This is a problem, because failing to notice vision-loss means failing to seek treatment or realise that you need to do so. This allows Glaucoma to worsen without patients being aware of it.
Patients do not notice Glaucoma because the vision-loss with Glaucoma is in the peripheral vision. They are also unable to detect the increased pressure in the eye that Glaucoma causes. For these reasons, Glaucoma is silently dangerous. This is why we advocate eye screening regularly, because then you can detect any of these silent eye diseases.
We recommend regular screening sessions. Book your screening now: https://www.oxia.org/
To find out more about the importance of screening, follow this link to a blog which covers the topic: https://www.eyesurgery.co.za/post/the-eye-as-a-window-to-your-health
Age Related Macular Degeneration
ARMD is also seen more often in women than in men. ARMD tends to run in families and, in contrast to Glaucoma, affects the centre of the vision. This hampers the patients’ ability to recognise faces or write something down, for instance.
So, what makes women more susceptible? Why does it seem like women really ARE from Venus, having drawn the eye-health short straw? Well, the majority of these reasons are not because of any eye defect women are harbouring, but rather because of the activities with which they engage and the fact that women actually live longer. Here are the six main reasons why women are more prone to these diseases.
1. Women live longer
This means they are more likely than men to suffer from age-related eye diseases, such as Cataracts. They simply live for longer than men, and therefore have more time to exist in that age bracket when age-related eye diseases are prevalent.
2. Hormones, birth control, menopause and pregnancy
Women are at higher risk of these eye conditions due to hormones and birth control, as well as pregnancy and menopause. For example, pregnancy can cause gestational diabetes and birth control can affect the vascularity of a woman’s body. Both of these can have a lasting impact on the eyes.
Regarding pregnancy and gestational diabetes, it is important to highlight the relationship between diabetes and the eye. One out of ten women have diabetes, which means that these women are more at risk of having eye problems. This is because there is an inextricable link between diabetes and eye conditions. Since gestational diabetes affects women in their pregnancy, often leading to diabetes after the pregnancy too, women are more prone to diabetes-related eye problems.
You can read about the link between diabetes and the eyes in our blog: https://www.eyesurgery.co.za/post/dealing-with-diabetes-and-the-eye
Again, this brings us back to the importance of screening. Screening allows doctors check the eye, as it is the window to your health, and detect any other diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma, which often go by undetected. This is critical because an early detection of diseases entails a better prognosis.
Screening is done using a high-resolution Fundus Camera, which can, within seconds, detect if there are any eye or retinal changes due to diabetes. It is a painless, affordable test, which is quick and easy to do. The photograph that the Fundus Camera generates provides a lot of information about eye changes due to diabetes or other conditions. It is essential to have this simple test done once a year, as you may be an asymptomatic diabetic.
Below is an image of a Fundus Camera photograph:
Smoking cigarettes is especially linked to the risk of cataracts and ARMD. Smoking has a huge impact on long term eye health.
4. Other medication
Statistically, women are more inclined to take other medication such as anti-depressants, anti-anxiety and high blood-pressure medication, which can have an impact on eye health too.
So, what can you do about it?
While it appears that women are hugely at risk of developing these eye problems, this can always be prevented. Avoiding smoking, wearing sunglasses, eating healthy food and green leafy vegetables are all ways of keeping healthy. Most importantly, it essential to see an eye doctor regularly and to keep up with routine care, COVID-19 or not.