Women’s eyes see more disorders

Lisa Early and Lisa Early

There are 3.4 million people in America who are visually impaired. Of those 3.4 million Americans, 75 percent are women.

According to Prevent Blindness Ohio, women are more likely than their male counterparts to experience some change in their vision, whether it is a need for glasses or contacts, an eye infection or even an eye disease.

And as a result, experts say it’s more important for them to know how to protect their eyesight.

The four leading causes of blindness are cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Each condition is more prevalent in women than in men.

But although there is no cure for these diseases, if detected and treated, vision can be preserved.

Dr. Mile Brujic, an optometrist at John T. Archer ‘ Associates on Ridgewood Drive, said even 6-month-old babies can have their vision checked.

“There is a program called Infantsee,” he said. “Optometrists offer their services for anyone under one year of age.”

The Prevent Blindness Web site reported chronic dry eye is the most common eye disease that affects women. During menopause, when the quality of tears changes as estrogen levels drop, one in 12 women suffer from this condition.

“Dry eyes affects about 90 percent of women and 10 percent of men,” said Molly Ryan-Fisher, communications coordinator of Prevent Blindness Ohio.

Symptoms of the condition include, but are not limited to, blurred vision, light sensitivity and sensation of itchiness or irritation in the eye. Impaired vision may result if the disease is not treated.

Women are also impacted by other eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts.

According to the National Women’s Health Web site, glaucoma affects nearly three million people – only half of who know they have it.

Brujic said glaucoma occurs when the water-like fluid in your eye, which provides oxygen and nutrients to the lens and cornea, flows more slowly out of the eye, causing pressure to build.

“If pressure is too high, this causes loss of peripheral vision,” he said.

Brujic admits if the condition isn’t caught early enough, it could spread and cause total vision loss.

“It can be treated with medication or eye drops to lower the pressure,” he said, adding since there aren’t any symptoms, people usually learn they have the disease later in life.

The NWH also reported cataracts affect more than 20 million Americans over 40.

Cataracts, which will also plague more than half of Americans by age 80, occur when the protein located in small bags comes out of the eye’s natural solution. The lens gradually become cloudy and opaque, making it hard for victims to realize they have cataracts.

University students, like Shauntina Lily, freshman, were concerned upon learning about the new report.

Lily said she plans to take better care of her eyes as a result.

“Now that I am aware I’m gonna try to stay healthy and fit and wear UV protection when outdoors,” she said, adding she had no idea women were at such a high risk for eye problems.

Brujic said it’s important that all Americans, including men, get their eyes checked regularly to avoid eye diseases, such as glaucoma and cataracts, from sneaking up on them.

“There are definitely a lot of issues with the eyes,” Brujic said. “If you have questions, talk to your eye care provider, and make sure you tell them all the problems you are having.”

He urged students to make sure their doctors are doing all they can to keep their patients as healthy as possible.

In addition to regular eye exams, Prevent Blindness Ohio also suggests women eat healthfully,stay fit, wear UV eye protection and know their family histories.

Editor’s Note: For more information, visit the Prevent Blindness Ohio Web site at www.pbohio.org, or call 800-301-2020.