Let's face it women and men's bodies behave differently. Each sex is susceptible to array of health concerns and diseases. The same holds true for eye conditions. That is why April is Woman's Eye Health and Safety Month. Prevent Blindness America dedicated the month of April to raise awareness for these conditions and discuss the best way to keep women's eyes healthy.
So what eye conditions are women prone to?
Dry Eye: Dryness can be attributed to for a variety of reasons. A common reason women experience dryness is hormonal changes. These can occur at any time during a woman's life but are more prevalent in instances such as pregnancy and menopause. Dryness can also be associated with medication usage. Some medications that can cause eye dryness, that are used by women, are birth control, hormone replacement therapy, and fertility medication. Women are also more prone to autoimmune conditions, such as Sjogren's disease, that causes dryness over the entire body. Autoimmune conditions affect the glands responsible for creating the aqueous portion of our tears.
Cataracts: Obviously men and women are both susceptible to cataracts, the clouding of the intra-ocular lens. However, studies have shown that women live longer then men making them more susceptible to having vision irritation from cataracts. This also holds true for other diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. If a person lives longer they are more likely to have a disease that is associated with age.
Ocular Changes Associated with Medication: Medications can have a variety of negative side effects, including eye and vision changes. Some ocular damage is reversible, but some can have long-term vision effects. Some medication that affect women are as follows:
Plaquenil (hydroxychloroquine) – this medication is commonly used to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Plaquenil can have a negative effect on the macula (center of best vision) and the optic nerve (more common with long-term use). A build up of medication within the ocular tissue can cause blurred vision and visual field changes. (see our OCT blog)
Topomax (topiramate) – this medication is used to treat migraines, seizures, and some other off label use. Topomax has been shown to cause blurred vision, elevated intra-ocular pressure, swelling of the cornea, and angle closure glaucoma (which can cause headaches and nausea).
Tamoxifen – this medication is used in the treatment of breast cancer. Tamoxifen can cause a build-up of crystalline deposits within the retina, which can lead to blurred vision. Some of the drugs associated with breast cancer treatment can also cause cataracts, light sensitivity, and intra-ocular bleeding.
Vision Changes Associated with Pregnancy: Pregnancy can impact vision and ocular comfort. Some women report they have blurred vision, light sensitivity, dryness, and swollen eye lids. While these symptoms are uncomfortable there can also be retinal changes associated with elevated blood pressure that can occur during pregnancy.
So what should be done to help preserve vision in women? Annual comprehensive eye examinations! During a comprehensive eye examination an eye care provider should assess ocular health, refractive status, and binocular vision skills. They should also obtain a full eye and health history. This history can be instrumental in implementing preventative eye-care for women who have a higher risk for certain conditions. This April, schedule your annual eye examination! Support woman's eye health month!
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