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2017 April Women's Eye Health month

As the saying goes, “Women are so busy taking care of their families, their jobs, and their lives that they don’t always have time to think about their own health.” This is certainly true when it comes to their eye health.

A woman may take her child for a pediatric checkup that includes a vision screening, make sure her mother gets treatment for macular degeneration, and then neglect her own needs.

But it’s important to take care of your own eye health.

We recommend women get an annual eye exam to help prevent vision loss. There are eye diseases you may be prone to because of heredity (like glaucoma), diabetes (retinopathy and cataracts), or aging (such as age-related macular degeneration). It’s important to detect these issues early.

Here are some things that can affect women:

  • Pregnancy: Dry eye syndrome, light sensitivity, prescription changes, and eye puffiness are the most common. Higher blood pressure during pregnancy can cause blurry vision and retinal detachment.
  • Birth control: Hormone changes can cause dry eye.
  • Menopause: Dry eye syndrome and eye inflammation are most common.
  • Breast cancer: Drugs taken to treat or prevent breast cancer can increase your risk of cataracts, eye bleeds, itchy eyes, and light sensitivity.

There are a variety of things women can do to reduce the risk of getting eye diseases and improve their health.

- Don’t smoke. The most important risk factor under your control is the decision not to smoke. There is strong evidence that smoking is a causative factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

- Eat a well-balanced diet that includes leafy green vegetables, oily fish, and fruits. Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids are important. Also remember to drink plenty of water, keep your diet low in sodium and caffeine and eat reasonably sized portions.

- Exercise aids in maintaining a healthy weight and good cardiovascular health. Obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can lead to specific vision complications like hypertensive retinopathy.

- Control your diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can cause permanent eye damage. Diabetes often leads to retinopathy and cataracts.

- Wear sunglasses with UV protection. They can slow the progression rate of cataracts. Wear a brimmed hat when you go out in the sun for even more protection.

- Educate yourself about the possibility of a family history of eye disease. This is particularly true for glaucoma, which has no warning signs and does its damage silently. The damage from glaucoma is mostly avoidable, if the disease is noticed early.

Taking the necessary steps today will provide your eyes with a brighter and clearer future. Keep in mind that most vision loss is either preventable or treatable – if the disease is diagnosed in a timely manner.