Women play an important role in the health of the whole family, often making health care decisions and scheduling doctor appointments. In the midst of caring for others, women need to remember to take care of their own eyes, especially in light of statistics showing that women are more likely to be blind or visually impaired than men. Sixty percent of the blind and visually impaired are women, according to the Women's Eye Health Task Force based at The Schepens Eye Research Institute at Harvard University. Child-bearing can also affect vision and place a greater importance on eye examinations.
As women age, they are at greater risk for blindness and visual impairment. Most conditions that impair vision or cause blindness are more prevalent in women, including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and dry eye syndrome.* While most experts say that women's longer life spans cause this disparity, regular eye examinations can identify the conditions sooner and improve the likelihood of preserving sight.
In recent years, the American Optometric Association has emphasized prenatal eye care. Diabetes and blood pressure - which can be brought on by pregnancy - can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam even before an obstetrician tests for them. Plus, many women experience vision changes because of increased hormone levels. Vision normally returns to normal within nine months of giving birth, so most optometrists recommend waiting to get a new prescription.
While taking care of the rest of the family, don't forget to take care of your vision care needs. Have your eyes examined every year to keep them working for you for years to come.
*Abu-Gareeb I, Lewallen S, Bassett K, Courtright P. "Gender and Blindness: A Meta-Analysis of Population- Based Prevalance Surveys," Ophthalmic Epidemial, 2/8/01, p. 39-56.