Studies show there is a gender gap in eye disease. Women are more likely than men to suffer from sight-threatening conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and glaucoma.
Women make up 65 percent of AMD cases; 61 percent of glaucoma and cataract patients are women, and 66 percent of blind patients are women.
Why the inequity?
There are a few theories. On average women live longer and many eye problems are age-related. Some eye conditions, such as dry eye, are more common in women, young and old. Social and economic factors affect women’s access to eye care, especially in developing countries.
Whatever the cause, there are a few unique vision problems women need to watch out for more than men. Dry eye occurs at double the rate in postmenopausal women. In general, women are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases than men, many of which affect vision, such as lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome and hyperthyroidisms. Also, pregnancy can cause vision changes due to the hormones pregnant women experience. So, American Academy of Ophthalmology advices women as below:
Get a comprehensive medical eye exam at age 40
Early signs of disease or changes in vision may begin at this age. An exam by an ophthalmologist – a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care – is an opportunity to carefully examine the eye for diseases and conditions that may have no symptoms in the early stages.
Know your family history
Certain eye diseases can be inherited. If you have a close relative with macular degeneration, you have a 50 percent chance of developing this condition. A family history of glaucoma increases your glaucoma risk by four to nine times. Talk to family members about their eye conditions. It can help you and your ophthalmologist evaluate your risk.
Eat healthy foods
A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, benefits the entire body, including the eyes. Eye-healthy food choices include citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold water fish.
Smoking increases the risk for eye diseases such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Smoking also raises the risk for cardiovascular diseases which can indirectly influence your eye health. Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, also worsens dry eye.
Exposure to ultraviolet UV light raises the risk of eye diseases, including cataract, fleshy growths on the eye and cancer. Always wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection and a hat while enjoying time outdoors.
In developing countries, women and girls are often not able to travel freely and in most cases will stay blind until eye care comes to their doorstep. Most of them are forced to stay at their home due to strict culture that doesn’t allow them to freely roam and explore. Cost of cataract surgery to those suffering from cataract is a big thing. Most of them don’t have financial access in their family which makes them to be dependent of their husband. Those who are blind do not receive much attention from family. They don’t have family support. Family neglects the problem thinking the ageing being natural phenomena which leads to cataract. Lack of knowledge, awareness and education about possibilities of the treatment of diseases like cataract and Refractive errors is the main barrier.
Community based programs help women and girls overcome the cultural and economic barriers to accessing eye care and ensure they receive the power of sight. Dr. Salma kcrai (Director Lumbini eye institute) told Seva Foundation on the occasion of womens day(2018) that women are the future of her family. she means girls should receive every thing a boy gets in the family.
According to reports by IAPB, out of 253 million blind person in the world, 55% are women There should not be a barrier in reaching eye services. Women should receive eye care if they cannot reach to the eye care service, the service needs to reach them. Unless we make special efforts to ensure eye services for women the correctable disparities in blindness prevalence between men and women will continue.