OD Q&A: What women need to know about their eye health

What women need to know about their eye health

It’s a fact that eye health looks different for women. Why? There are several medical conditions which can affect women disproportionately, and can result in eye disease, including a range of thyroid disorders, gestational diabetes and more, that can have an effect on eye health. Hormonal changes during pregnancy can also affect eye health—leading to dryness or even blurred or distorted vision. Also, women typically live longer, making them more at risk for age-related eye issues.

And yet, many women are overdue for an eye exam, or only visit an optometrist once an eye issue becomes apparent or too severe to ignore.

A Specsavers survey, created in partnership with the Canadian Council of the Blind by Leger, found that 35 per cent of women say they are overdue for an eye exam, and 32 per cent of women would only book an eye exam if they are experiencing issues. This is concerning because regular eye exams are crucial to maintaining overall eye health and identifying other significant health conditions.

We’re working to spread the message of the importance of regular eye exams and encourage Canadians to book an eye exam if they are overdue.

Optometrists can diagnose a range of vision issues and eye health concerns. Independent optometrists practicing within a Specsavers have access to OCT to help them spot any abnormalities that may be the result of a bigger issue, helping with early detection. Since 75 per cent of vision loss is preventable and treatable, seeing an optometrist before vision issues start is important to best protect eye health long term.

For a woman, there are many crucial life stages that can impact eye health. Take it from Dr. Natalia Nowakowska and Dr. Neeru Johal.

Here, these two optometrists team up to address the most common eye health concerns for women.

How do biological factors like hormonal changes, pregnancy and menopause affect women’s eye health?

Hormones play a big part in the eye’s lubrication system, so when there are fluctuations, this can lead to dry eyes, blurred or distorted vision, or spots in your vision. During pregnancy and menopause, patients may notice these changes. It’s important to visit the optometrist if you experience any of these symptoms.

Why are women more likely to experience visual impairment and dry eye?

There are several medical conditions which can affect females in a disproportionate way, which can also result in eye conditions. These include a range of thyroid disorders (which can lead to thyroid eye disease), Sjogren’s syndrome, and gestational diabetes.

With women typically living longer, they are more at risk of developing macular degeneration, and cataracts as they age. Solutions now to prevent these include diet, UV protection and healthy life habits, such as avoiding smoking.

What is the treatment for dry eye? Are there any at-home remedies or lifestyle changes that can be made?

Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which the eyes aren’t able to produce enough tears or tear film may be imbalanced. This can result in sore, dry eyes and blurred vision. Other common symptoms associated with the condition include a foreign body sensation, experience excessive watering or a burning feeling.

Dry eye treatment will depend on the underlying cause, however, lubricating eye drops are commonly prescribed. If chronic diseases are causing dry eye, an optometrist can refer you to an appropriate specialist to treat the underlying condition. People hoping to prevent dry eye from getting worse should maintain proper eye hygiene, take regular breaks when using laptops and computers, or consider using an air humidifier.

Using a warm compress can be very effective in increasing the quality of tears and reducing dry eye. This can be done at home using a washcloth that has been soaked in warm water. Lay the washcloth so both eyes are covered and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Follow this with lid cleaning. This helps unclog oil glands and helps the eyes produce tears.

Can I still wear my contact lenses when I am pregnant?

Various changes occur to your body when a woman is pregnant. Women often find that their vision can also change during pregnancy. Symptoms which you might experience include dry, irritated eyes, or blurred and distorted vision, all which may lead to contact lens discomfort, but generally you can continue to wear your lenses throughout your pregnancy. However, if you have any concerns with your vision while pregnant, it is best to seek an appointment with your optometrist or medical practitioner to ensure there is no problem with the health of your eyes.

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