When it comes to eye problems, women have a tougher time of it. This post looks at how the odds are stacked against women when it comes to certain eye conditions.
Why are women more at risk?
There are a couple of reasons why women are afflicted by eye disease more than men:
- Women live longer and are therefore more likely to be affected by age-related eye disease
- Their eyes are more likely to be affected by hormonal changes and dry eye disease
- They are at greater risk of autoimmune disease
Age-related eye disease
Did you know that women represent 2 out of 3 people who are blind or visually impaired? Due to their longer life expectancy, women are more likely to suffer from common eye diseases associated with ageing, including macular degeneration, cataract and glaucoma.
Women and Dry Eye Syndrome
There is no debate about which of the sexes presents to their eye-care practitioner more from acute dry eye. Women are more likely than men to go to their doctor or optometrist about their dry eye symptoms.
The incidence of dry eyes increases with age, and women live longer than men, so there’s another reason why we see more female dry eye patients.
So, if we take life expectancy and willingness to report symptoms out of the equation, do women really suffer more from dry eye disease?
The answer is yes. Recent dry eye studies have found that found that over the age of 40, prevalence of dry eye disease in women is nearly twice that of men (18% v 10%).
But what we are starting to see at our practice is that the gender gap is much closer for younger adults and adolescents. The reason is to do with the underlying cause of the disease.
Internal v external causes
Internal changes, such as hormonal change due to menopause and hormone replacement therapy both increase the risk of dry eye disease. Hormones affect both the aqueous (watery) tears as well as the oily tears.
But in younger people, the underlying cause of their symptoms is often external, with dry, office conditions and prolonged screen
use leading to poor blinking and tear production. In a digital age, where everything we do is screen-based, from school to entertainment and work, digital eye strain is rife.
We now see many young men with dry eye symptoms, although women still tend to show up more due to many factors:
eyelid lifts Women are more likely to have had a surgical or cosmetic procedures linked to dry eye, such as:
- face lifts
- lash extensions
- eyeliner tattoos
Interestingly, there is little difference between the sexes when it comes to having laser eye surgery for vision correction).
Women also tend to wear contact lenses for longer hours, or over-wear them, despite discomfort, for cosmetic reasons. This leads to the debilitating symptoms of dry eye syndrome and pain syndromes.
Autoimmune disorders and women's eyes
Conditions such as thyroid disease, lupus (also called SLE), rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and Sjogren’s Syndrome are autoimmune diseases and all more common in women. For example, Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease of the glands resulting in dry eye and a dry mouth, is almost always seen in women.
Take home message
Women represent 2 out of 3 people who are blind or visually impaired. Don’t be part of that statistic. Use the following guide to maintain good eye health throughout your life:
- See your optometrist every 2 years from adulthood (or more often if you have been advised) and annually once you turn 65. Regular eye exams pick up early changes and ensure you nip eye disease in the bud.
- Advise your optometrist of any family history of glaucoma and macular degeneration.
- Look after your macula – quit smoking (and second hand smoke), eat a range of foods rich in omega 3 (and low in omega 6) essential fatty acids.