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   Prevent Blindness
Whitney Anderson
Phone: 800-301-2020 ext.105
E-mail: [email protected]

 

Women at Higher Risk than Men for Most Eye Diseases, Yet One in Four Has Not Had an Eye Exam in Last Two Years

-Survey Reveals Cost as Major Reason Why Women Forego Exams,

Even For Those with Insurance-

 

 

Columbus, OH (April 6 ,2015) –According to the recent Prevent Blindness study, The Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems,women make up the majority of the 4.4 million Americans age 40 and older who are visually impaired or blind.  More women than men have age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma.  These numbers will only continue to increase in the years to come. 

 

Although there are no cures for these diseases, many of the effects may be lessened through early detection and treatment.  A recent online survey on behalf of Prevent Blindness found, however, that one in four women had not received an eye exam in the past two years.  Cost was cited as the number one reason for both those who did and did not have vision insurance.  Other reasons cited were transportation issues and simply being “too busy” to make an appointment.

 

The recent survey results are alarming combined with the results from the Prevent Blindness survey conducted last year by Harris Poll which found that:

  • Less than 10 percent of American women realize that women are at a greater risk of suffering permanent vision loss than men.
  • 86 percent incorrectly believe that men and women are at equal risk
  • Five percent believe that men are at greater risk 

Prevent Blindness has designated April as Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month in an effort to educate women about the steps they can take today to help preserve vision in the future.

 

The group also created the program, See Jane See: Women’s Healthy Eyes Now,to provide free education and resources on everything from eye disease to cosmetic safety to vision changes during pregnancy.  Valuable information and new data on a range of topics related to women’s vision health at every life stage can be found at SeeJaneSee.org.  In addition, the site also features a section written by leading experts on topics from everything from the importance of eye exams to the effects of smoking on vision.

 

“Healthy vision is something we often take for granted until it starts to slip away," said  Sherry Williams,  President & CEO of Prevent Blindness.  "We want to encourage women to put themselves on a path toward a lifetime of healthy vision by making an appointment for a dilated eye exam today!”

 

Prevent Blindness also recommends:

  • quitting smoking
  • taking supplements (as approved by a medical profession
  • learning of any family history of eye disea
  • expectant mothers should be aware of possible vision changes during pregnancy
  • all women who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant and have been diagnosed with diabetes should get a full, dilated eye exam
  • wear UV-blocking sunglasses and a brimmed hat outdoors
  • use cosmetics safely
  • use contact lenses safely

For more information on women’s eye health, including fact sheets on eye diseases, pregnancy and vision, the safe use of cosmetics, as well as financial assistance, please visit  www.pbohio.org, www.SeeJaneSee.org, or call  (800) 301-2020.

 

About Prevent Blindness 

Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness is Ohio’s leading volunteer nonprofit public health organization dedicated to preventing blindness and preserving sight. We serve all 88 Ohio counties, providing direct services to more than 800,000 Ohioans annually and educating millions of consumers about what they can do to protect and preserve their precious gift of sight. For more information or to make a contribution, call 800-301-2020.  Or, visit us on the web at www.pbohio.org or facebook.com/pbohio.

 

2015 WOMEN’S EYE HEALTH & SAFETY TALKING POINTS

GENERAL WOMEN’S EYE HEALTH

 

According to the 2014 Prevent Blindness report, “The Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems:”

 

  • Of the more than 4.4 million Americans age 40 and older who are visually impaired or blind, 2.7 million are women.
  • Currently 63% of blind and 62% of impaired are women, proportions that will drop by only about 2% each by 2050.

 

 

2014

Eye Disease

Total Number of Cases in America

Total Number of Women’s Cases

AMD

2,186,476

1,401,503

Cataract

25,693,892

15,436,886

Glaucoma

2,865,303

1,722,812

Vision Impairment

3,072,252

1,900,501

Blindness

1,355,633

874,221

.

 

2032

Eye Disease

Total Number of Cases in America

Total Number of Women’s Cases

AMD

3,387,560

2,127,793

Cataract

38,477,608

22,887,503

Glaucoma

4,275,758

2,513,475

Vision Impairment

5,073,572

3,017,835

Blindness

2,161,164

1,336,993

 

2050

Eye Disease

Total Number of Cases in America

Total Number of Women’s Cases

AMD

4,425,989

2,874,505

Cataract

45,620,606

27,234,564

Glaucoma

5,526,347

3,291,955

Vision Impairment

7,301,814

4,386,501

Blindness

3,088,249

1,934,519

 

 

  • According to the Women’s Eye Health Task Force, risk factors for premature death due to heart disease or cancer are the same as those for blindness and vision impairment. These factors include, smoking; excess weight; imbalanced, unhealthy diet; lack of exercise and exposure to UV rays.
  • Prevent Blindness offers these tips to help lower the incidence of eye diseases in women:

Eat Healthy and Stay Fit- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the risk of cataracts can be lowered by eating 3½ servings of fruits or vegetables a day.  Green leafy vegetables especially contain loads of nutrients for the eye.  Pairing a healthy diet with exercise will reduce the risk of diabetes.

Take Supplements- Antioxidants have been shown to actually reduce the progression of some eye illnesses, including AMD.  Vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin C and zinc are good sources to help maintain eye health.

Quit Smoking- Besides the typically known side effects of smoking including cancer, lung disease, etc., it also increases the risk for eye diseases.

Wear UV Eye Protection- When venturing outdoors,Prevent Blindness recommends wearing brimmed hats in conjunction with UV-rated sunglasses (labeled: absorbs 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays).  UV rays are extremely dangerous for the eyes.      

Know Your Family History- Genetics plays a key role in eye disease.  Research your family’s health history and notify your eye care professional of any eye diseases that run in the family.

 

DRY EYE SYNDROME

 

  • Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly. In addition, inflammation of the surface of the eye may occur along with dry eye. If left untreated, this condition can lead to pain, ulcers, or scars on the cornea, and some loss of vision. However, permanent loss of vision from dry eye is uncommon. (NEI)
  • About 6 million women and 3 million men have moderate to severe symptoms of dry eye syndrome.  Another 20-30 million people have mild cases of the disease.  It affects women two to three times more than men. (Healthywomen.org)

Dry Eye Symptoms include:

·         stinging or burning of the eye;

·         a sandy or gritty feeling as if something is in the eye;

·         episodes of excess tears following very dry eye periods;

·         a stringy discharge from the eye;

·         pain and redness of the eye;

·         episodes of blurred vision;

·         heavy eyelids;

·         inability to cry when emotionally stressed;

·         uncomfortable contact lenses;

·         decreased tolerance of reading, working on the computer, or any activity that requires sustained visual attention;

·         eye fatigue.

 

 

  • According to the National Eye Institute, women who are on hormone replacement therapy are more likely to experience symptoms.  Women taking only estrogen are 70 percent more likely to experience Dry Eye, and those taking estrogen and progesterone have a 30 percent increased risk of developing the condition.
  • Women who are pregnant, on certain types of birth control, or experiencing menopause also have increased rates of Dry Eye. (AOA) 
  • Menopause brings dry eyes because estrogen controls the tear glands, so a reduction in estrogen causes a reduction in tears. (Corneal Research Laboratory, University of Rochester).
  • In rare cases, dry eye can become serious – leading to eye infections or a damaged cornea. That is why it is important to visit an eye care professional if you think you have dry eye.
  • Using a humidifier, avoiding cigarette smoke, and using artificial tears and/or ointments can help relieve discomfort.

PREGNANCY

  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology states that women with diabetes should also be examined if considering pregnancy, early in the first trimester and every 1 to 3 months during pregnancy because diabetic retinopathy can progress much more rapidly during pregnancy.  The American Optometric Association also recommends an examination 6−8 weeks postpartum.

 

Possible vision changes during pregnancy include:

 

  • Refractive Changes

During pregnancy, changes in hormone levels can alter the strength you need in your eyeglasses or contact lenses. Though a slight change is usually nothing to worry about, it’s a good idea to discuss any vision changes with an eye doctor who can help you determine whether or not to update your prescription. The doctor may simply advise you to wait a few weeks after delivery before making a change in your prescription.

  • Puffy Eyelids

Puffiness around the eyes is another common side effect of certain hormonal changes women experience during pregnancy. Puffy eyelids may interfere with peripheral vision. As a rule of thumb, don’t skimp on your water intake and stick to a moderate diet low in sodium and caffeine. These healthy habits can help limit water retention and boost your overall comfort.

  • Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are very common in pregnant women and may cause sensitivity to light.  Talk to your doctor before taking any migraine medications . 

  • Diabetes

There is an increased risk of developing diabetes during pregnancy. Blurred vision may indicate an elevation of blood sugar levels. It is important for women to follow good prenatal care and consult their doctor about any unusual symptoms.

  • Pregnancy-induced Hypertension (PIH)

Pregnant women who notice their vision is blurred and see spots in front of  the eyes may have PIH.  PIH generally resolves itself after delivery, but it is imperative to work with your doctor to minimize complications. (Better Vision Institute).

  • Implications for Unborn Child

Cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug use pose enormous health risks to the unborn child, but vision disorders that can result are less publicized. These exposures, as well as other problems that lead to preterm or low-birth weight infants, increase the risk of amblyopia, strabismus (crossed eyes) and significant refractive errors.