One’s biological sex and eye health do not intuitively go together. We can easily think that there can be little to no connection between the two since we all have the same set of eyes regardless of one’s biological sex. However, several studies have already noted that there indeed is a correlation between the two. As it turns out, women are more prone to contracting eye diseases than men. What could be the reason for this?
We will explore the underlying eye diseases that are prone to women and why they occur more in women. Throughout our discussion, we will base all information on an article published in 2021 in the Biology of Sex Differences.
How are women more prone to eye diseases?
According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, more than half of visual impairments in Americans aged 40 and above are women. The most likely reasons for these numbers are:
- Women have a longer life expectancy than men. They incur more eye diseases because aging is the main cause of most of these diseases.
- Women undergo pregnancy and menopausal stages. Studies have stated that risks after pregnancy and menopause increase the risk of certain eye diseases.
- Women’s use of cosmetics and personal care products can affect their eye health. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate some of these products. This allows manufacturers to add undisclosed ingredients that may harm the eyes. The following products may affect one’s eye health:
- Contact lenses or cosmetic lenses
- Anti-aging creams typically applied around the eyes
- Eye makeup
- Eyelash-enhancing serums and lash-lengthening products
Because of these reasons, eye diseases have become more prevalent in women. The specific eye diseases that affect women may be because of one of these reasons or a combination of two or three. The following are the eye diseases that women are more prone to acquire:
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Thyroid eye disease
- Dry Eye disease
- Pregnancy-related eye diseases
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Preeclampsia-related or eclampsia-related retinal changes
Age-related Macular Degeneration
As the name implies, doctors characterize this disease as the deterioration of the macula due to aging. As the macula is responsible for seeing fine details, damage to this part means blurred vision. This disease can complicate everyday tasks such as reading and recognizing faces.
The elderly of more than 70 years old can expect an irreversible loss of vision because of macular degeneration. As previously discussed, this is more prevalent in women due to their higher life expectancy. However, researchers are still debating whether other eye conditions such as cataracts and diabetes also play a part in its prevalence.
Among the women affected by this disease, vision impairment can directly cause functional disability leading to mental health problems. However, scientists have made medical advancements to stabilize neovascular AMD at a 90% success rate.
Thyroid Eye Disease
This condition is a rare autoimmune disease that causes a progression of inflammation, swelling, and tissue damage to the eyes. Due to inflammation, a person with this disease would have watery and bulging eyes.
The American Thyroid Association states that 1 in 8 women can contract this disease, especially after pregnancy and menopause. Scientists are not exactly sure of the reason for this correlation because of the complexity of the disease. Several other factors to consider for the cause include the immune system’s behavior, the thyroid gland’s condition, and an individual’s genetic make-up.
Dry Eye Disease
This is a common eye condition distinguishable by a person’s inability to produce tears for the lubrication of their eyes. This can damage the eye’s surface and lead to inflammation. A person with dry eyes will feel uncomfortable burning in the eyes.
Compared to men, doctors diagnosed women with this disease twice as likely. This is primarily due to excessive and improper use of cosmetic products that can contain harmful ingredients such as prostaglandins. In general, women and men have different ocular structures and functionality. This can cause a difference in tear composition and output. Age is also another factor that contributes to this disease.
Pregnancy-related Eye Disease
Pregnancy can cause several other effects on the female body. One of these effects that can indirectly lead to eye disease is diabetic retinopathy. Women with diabetes mellitus may aggravate their existing retinopathy issues during pregnancy. They are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, even if they still do not have one. While researchers have yet to establish the exact biological mechanism between diabetic retinopathy and pregnancy, studies show that having both can have effects on the child.
Another eye disease exacerbated by pregnancy is preeclampsia-related or eclampsia-related retinal dysfunctions. The increase in a woman’s fluid retention can affect the structures in the eye, leading to visual disturbances. If other conditions such as high blood pressure and proteinuria occur, the patient may experience blurred or double vision, temporary vision loss, and light flashes.
Tips In Taking Care Of The Eyes For Women
After presenting you with these diseases, this discussion would give a better impression if we leave you with ways of taking care of your eyes. While many of the diseases may be unavoidable, the right knowledge can give us an advantage through the specific cases of these diseases. These are our preventive measures based on the information mentioned above:
- Ask for professional advice concerning makeup: consult a professional makeup artist AND a medical professional in choosing the right makeup and product for you. While there may be good products recommended by an artist, those also approved by a medical professional in terms of the ingredients would be the best product.
- Monitor your metabolic control during pregnancy: metabolic factors such as high blood pressure can worsen your condition during pregnancy. Always listen to the doctor’s advice regarding your diet.
- Regularly visit your optometrist during old age: research generally links eye diseases to old age. This is especially the time when you should visit your doctor, even with just minor symptoms. Doctors can more easily treat a disease detected at an early stage.