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Women and Healthy Eyes

In April, Prevent Blindness America addresses eye health issues specific to women.

Women go through many changes during their lifetime. Each change could affect her vision differently. Eye disease among women is increasingly common, particularly in middle-aged women. In fact, studies indicate that the majority of women aged 40 and above exhibit some sort of eyesight impairment, and are at risk of developing conditions including but not limited to cataracts, dry eye, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. It's worth noting that the chance of women experiencing vision loss has increased because of women's increasing lifespan.

As a woman, the first step to take to guarantee strong vision is to schedule a routine eye exam. Be sure that you get a full eye exam before you turn 40, and that you adhere to the care your eye care professional encourages. Additionally, know your family history, because your genetics are a key part of understanding, diagnosing and stopping eye diseases. Don't forget to look into your family's medical history and inform your doctor of any conditions that show up.

When it comes to nutrition, eat a healthful, varied diet and don't forget to include foods rich in zinc, omega-3 fats and beta carotene, all which help prevent vision loss due to eye disease. You can also buy vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C tablets, as they are all good starting points to maintaining optimal eye health.

If you smoke, make a commitment to stop, as even second-hand smoke can add to the danger of eye disease and is a common factor in the macular degeneration that can come with aging (AMD) and cataracts. Ultraviolet rays, which can also aid in the development of cataracts and AMD, are very harmful for your eyes. When outside, and not just during the summer, be sure to put on complete UV blocking sunglasses as well as a sun hat that will protect your eyes from harsh rays.

Hormonal shifts like what might take place when a woman goes through pregnancy or menopause, can also influence your vision. Sometimes, these shifts can even make the use of contacts less effective or uncomfortable to wear. During pregnancy, you might want to shorten lens wearing time and alter your eyeglass prescription as needed. It's recommended to book an appointment with your optometrist at some point during your pregnancy to discuss any eyesight or vision changes you may be noticing.

There are also measures to take to shield your eyes from risks at home, such as domestic cleaners. Be sure that household chemicals, including cleaning agents, bleach and fertilizers are stored safely and properly, and are locked away from small children. Clean your hands well after handling all chemicals and use eye protection if using strong chemicals. Wear proper safety goggles when repairing things around the house, especially when working with wood, metal or tools.

Women need to be educated about the risks and considerations when it comes to looking after your vision. And of course, it can never hurt to educate the other women you know, like your daughters and friends, on the best ways to protect their eye health.