Women Face Higher Risk of Blindness Than Men

The South Carolina Society of Ophthalmology American Academy of Ophthalmology urges women to make eye health a top priority in May

Columbia, SC – May 2018 — Studies show there is a gender gap in eye disease. Women are more likely than men to suffer from sight-threatening conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, and glaucoma.1 In support of Healthy Vision Month in May, the South Carolina Society of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Ophthalmology remind seniors to make vision a top priority.

Women make up 65 percent of AMD cases, 61 percent of glaucoma and cataract cases, and 66 percent of blind patients.2 Why the inequity? There are a few theories. On average, women live longer; many eye problems are age-related. Some eye conditions, such as dry eye, are more common in women, young and old. Social and economic factors affect women’s access to eye care, especially in developing countries.

Whatever the cause, there are a few unique vision problems women need to watch out for more than men. Dry eye occurs at double the rate in postmenopausal women.3 In general, women are more susceptible to autoimmune diseases than men, many of which affect vision, such as lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome and hyperthyroiditis. Also, pregnancy can cause vision changes due to hormone fluctuations.

Good news is most vision loss is preventable. The Academy offers five simple steps to take control of your eye health today:

• Get a comprehensive medical eye exam at age 40. Early signs of disease or changes in vision may begin at this age. An exam by an ophthalmologist – a physician who specializes in medical and surgical eye care – is an opportunity to carefully examine the eye for diseases and conditions that may have no symptoms in the early stages. For those concerned about the cost of an exam, the Academy’s EyeCare America® program may be able to help. More than 5,500 dedicated volunteer ophthalmologists provide eye exams and care, often at no out-of-pocket cost to eligible patients. Learn if you qualify at eyecareamerica.org.

• Know your family history. Certain eye diseases can be inherited. If you have a close relative with macular degeneration, you have a 50 percent chance of developing this condition. A family history of glaucoma increases your glaucoma risk by four to nine times. Talk to family members about their eye conditions. It can help you and your ophthalmologist evaluate your risk.

• Eat healthy foods. A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, benefits the entire body, including the eyes. Eye-healthy food choices include citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables and cold water fish.

• Stop smoking. Smoking increases the risk for eye diseases such as cataract and age-related macular degeneration. Smoking also raises the risk for cardiovascular diseases which can indirectly influence your eye health. Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, also worsens dry eye.

• Wear sunglasses. Exposure to ultraviolet UV light raises the risk of eye diseases, including cataract, fleshy growths on the eye and cancer. Always wear a hat and sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection while outdoors.

“Eye exams aren’t only about checking a person's visual acuity or sharpness, but also determining the overall health of their eyes,” said Rebecca J. Taylor, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “We encourage everyone, particularly if you’re over age 40, to get regular eye care. By making vision a priority, we can help protect our sight as we age.”

To learn more ways to keep your eyes healthy, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website.

About the South Carolina Society of Ophthalmology
The South Carolina Society of Ophthalmology (“SCSO”) is one of the nation’s most recognized and nationally acclaimed State Eye Societies comprised of Eye Physicians and Surgeons specializing in the medical eye practice area of ophthalmology. The South Carolina Society has been recognized repeatedly for its Patient Advocacy programs and its State Physician Leadership, and its Executive Director has received multiple National Awards of Excellence from the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
The current president of the SCSO is Joseph R. Bishop, III, MD. Blake Myers, MD, of Jervey Eye Group serves as Chairman of the Legislative Committee and the Fellows Council with Malcom Edwards, MD, of Lancaster Eye serving as Secretary -Treasurer. John Wells, MD, of Palmetto Retina serves as Public Information Chair with Kurt Heitman serving as the national chair of the AAO State Affairs Committee and Todd Gwin, MD of Spartanburg serving as the State Councilor. Ron Scott, JD, MBA, M. Acct., serves as the Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer.

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. Our EyeSmart® program provides the public with the most trusted information about eye health. For more information, visit aao.org.

About EyeCare America
EyeCare America, one of the country’s leading public service programs provides eye care through a pool of nearly 6,000 volunteer ophthalmologists. Since 1985, EyeCare America has helped more than 1.8 million people. Ninety percent of the care provided is at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. For more information, visit eyecareamerica.org.