This month, Prevent Blindness America is focusing on Women's Eye Health and Safety.
Women go through many changes during their lifetime. Each change could affect her vision differently. Eye disease among the female population is being diagnosed in increasing numbers, especially in aging women. Actually, studies show that most women aged 40 and above exhibit some type of eyesight impairment, and are at risk of developing conditions such as cataracts, dry eye, glaucoma and diabetes-related retinopathy. It's worth noting that the risk of women developing vision impairments has increased as a result of the female population's increasing lifespan.
As a woman, an important step you can take to ensure strong vision is to schedule a periodic eye exam. Be sure to go have a full eye exam before you hit 40, and that you adhere to the care your eye doctor recommends. Additionally, know your family medical history, as your genes are a highly relevant factor in understanding, diagnosing and stopping vision loss. Be sure to look into your family's medical history and alert your eye doctor of any illnesses that show up.
When it comes to nutrition, maintain a healthy, varied diet and don't forget to include foods containing zinc, omega-3 fats and beta carotene, which all help guard from vision loss from eye disease. If possible, you should also take vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C tablets, which are all great starting points to maintaining optimal eye care.
For women who smoke, make a decision to stop, as even second-hand smoke can raise the danger of eye disease and is a proven cause of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Ultraviolet rays, which can also cause the development of cataracts and AMD, are extremely dangerous for your eyes. When outside, and during the summer AND winter, make sure to put on 100% UV protective sunglasses and a sun hat to protect your eyes from harsh rays.
Hormonal shifts like what might take place when a woman goes through pregnancy and menopause, can also affect your sight. Sometimes, these changes can even make contact lenses ineffective or uncomfortable. If you're pregnant, you might want to shorten contact lens wearing time and alter your prescription if necessary. It's worthwhile to book an appointment with your optometrist during your pregnancy to talk about any eyesight or vision shifts you may be noticing.
It is also important to protect your eyes from risks at home, like domestic cleaners. Check that household chemicals, including cleaners, bleach and pesticides are kept safely and properly, and are out of reach of small children. Wash your hands thoroughly after handling all chemicals and wear eye protection if employing the use of strong chemicals. Wear proper safety goggles when repairing things in your house, most importantly when working with potentially dangerous objects or power tools.
When used incorrectly, eye makeup might also be a safety hazard for your eyes. Firstly, you should never use anyone else's cosmetics. Avoid using old eye makeup and dispose of anything that's been open for more than four months, especially anything that's liquid based. Look out for any abnormal reactions and stop use immediately if you spot pain, itchiness or redness in or around the eyes. Be aware also that you can actually develop allergic reactions to products you've been fine with for years. And of course, be sure to avoid actual contact with the eye when applying eyeliners, shadows and mascara.
As a woman, it is important to be aware of the risks and choices when it comes to your eye care. And of course, it can't hurt to educate the women you know, such as daughters and friends, about how to protect their eye and vision health.