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Women and Healthy Eyes

This month, Prevent Blindness America is focusing on Women's Eye Health and Safety.

Women go through various stages throughout their lives, and each can impact vision differently. Eye disease among the female population is being diagnosed in growing numbers, more notably in middle-aged women. Actually, studies indicate that large numbers of women aged 40 and above have some degree of visual impairment, and may be in danger of developing conditions such as dry eyes, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma. It's interesting to note that the risk of women experiencing vision impairments has increased due to the female population's growing lifespan.

As a woman, the first step you can take to guarantee healthy sight is to make a thorough eye test part of your normal health routine. Make sure to go get a comprehensive eye test before reaching the age of 40, and that you follow up with the care your eye doctor recommends. Also, be familiar with your family history, because your genes are a highly relevant factor in understanding, diagnosing and preventing eye conditions. Be sure to examine your family's eye and health history and inform your doctor of any diseases present themselves.

When it comes to nutrition, maintain a healthy, varied diet and don't forget to include foods containing beta carotene, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, all which help protect against vision loss from eye disease. You can also take vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C supplements, which are all strong starting points to keeping up top-notch eye care.

For women who smoke, make a commitment to stop, because even second-hand smoke can increase the risk of eye disease and is a proven factor in the macular degeneration that can come with aging (AMD), as well as cataracts. UV rays, which can also aid in the development of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, are extremely dangerous to your eyes. When outside, and not just during the summer, don't forget to wear complete UV blocking sunglasses and a sun hat to shield your eyes from harsh rays.

Hormonal shifts like those that take place due to pregnancy or menopause, can also slightly change your vision. Sometimes, these changes can even make contact lenses less effective or uncomfortable to wear. If you're pregnant, you might want to reduce contact lens wearing time and update your prescription if necessary. It's worthwhile to make an appointment with your optometrist during your pregnancy to discuss any eyesight or vision shifts you may be noticing.

There are also several measures to take to shield your eyes from risks at home, like domestic cleaners. Check that domestic chemicals, including cleaners, bleach and pesticides are kept safely and are locked away from small children. Scrub your hands properly after handling all chemicals and wear eye protection when using strong substances. Wear safety goggles when repairing things around the house, especially when working with wood, metal or tools.

As a woman, it is important to be aware of the risks and options when it comes to your eye care. And of course, it can never hurt to educate the other women in your life, such as daughters and friends, on the best ways to look after their eye health.