April is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month.
It's no surprise that the various stages of a woman's life often have a strong impact on her eye health and vision. Eye disease among women is being diagnosed in growing numbers, particularly in aging women. Actually, studies indicate that the majority of women aged 40 and above experience some sort of visual impairment, and are at risk of developing conditions such as dry eyes, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma. It's interesting to note that the risk of women developing vision loss has increased as a result of the female population's increasing longevity.
As a woman, an initial step to take to maintain healthy sight is to schedule a routine eye exam. Make sure that you get a comprehensive eye checkup before reaching the age of 40, and that you don't forget to follow up with the care your eye doctor encourages. Also, know your family medical history, as your genetics are a key factor in understanding, diagnosing and stopping vision loss.
In addition, eat a healthy, varied diet and don't forget to include foods full of beta carotene, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, all which help protect against vision loss due to eye disease. You can also take vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C supplements, which are all good starting points to keeping up top-notch eye care.
For smokers, make a decision to quit, because even second-hand smoke can increase the risk of eye disease and is a proven cause of the macular degeneration that can come with aging (AMD), as well as cataracts. Ultraviolet rays, which can also aid in the development of cataracts and AMD, are extremely dangerous for your vision. When you go outside, and during the summer AND winter, be sure to put on 100% UV protective sunglasses and a sun hat that will protect your eyes from harsh rays.
Hormonal shifts like those that occur due to pregnancy and menopause, can also slightly change your vision. Often, these changes can even make contacts ineffective or slightly painful. If you're pregnant, you may want to reduce lens wearing time and update your eyeglass prescription if necessary. It's recommended to book an appointment with your optometrist during your pregnancy to talk about any eyesight or vision shifts you may be noticing.
There are also measures to take to protect your eyes from risks at home, such as domestic cleaners. Be sure that domestic chemicals, including cleaning agents, bleach and fertilizers are stored safely and are out of reach of young children. Wash your hands properly after handling all chemicals and use eye protection when using strong substances. Wear proper safety goggles when repairing things in your house, most importantly when working with potentially dangerous objects or tools.
Women need to be educated about the dangers and considerations when it comes to your eye care. And of course, it can never hurt to inform the other women you know, like your daughters and friends, on the best ways to protect their eye health.