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Women and Healthy Eyes

April is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month.

Women go through various stages throughout their lives, and each can impact vision differently. Eye disease among women is increasingly common, particularly in older women. In fact, studies show that large numbers of women over the age of 40 experience some sort of eyesight impairment, and may be in danger of developing conditions like dry eyes, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma. It's worth noting that the risk of women experiencing vision impairments has become more common as a result of the female population's increasing lifespan.

For women, an initial step you can take to ensure healthy vision is to schedule a periodic eye exam. Be sure that you have a comprehensive eye test before reaching the age of forty, and that you follow up with the advice your eye doctor encourages. Secondly, be familiar with your family medical history, as your genetics are a highly relevant factor in understanding, diagnosing and stopping vision loss.

When it comes to nutrition, eat a healthful, varied diet and make sure to include foods containing beta carotene, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, which all help guard from vision loss as a result of eye disease. You can also take vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C tablets, which are all strong starting points to keeping up top-notch eye health.

For women who smoke, make a decision to quit, as even second-hand smoke can increase 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 lead to the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, are extremely dangerous to your eyes. When you go outside, and during the summer AND winter, make sure to put on 100% UV protective sunglasses and a sun hat to protect your eyes from harsh rays.

Hormonal shifts such as those that occur when a woman goes through pregnancy and menopause, can also influence your sight. Often, these changes can even make contact lenses ineffective or uncomfortable to wear. If you're pregnant, you might want to shorten contact lens wearing time and alter your prescription as needed. It's recommended to make an appointment with your eye care professional at some point during your pregnancy to address any eye or vision changes you may be experiencing.

It is also important to protect your eyes from risks at home, such as cleaning supplies. Check that household chemicals, including cleaning agents, bleach and pesticides are stored safely and are locked away from young children. Scrub your hands properly after working with all chemicals and invest in eye protection when using toxic substances. Wear proper safety goggles when fixing things around the house, especially when working with potentially dangerous objects or tools.

Women need to be educated about the dangers and choices when it comes to caring for your eyes. And of course, it can never hurt to inform the other women in your life, like your daughters and friends, about how to look after their eye and vision health.