Women are diagnosed with eye disease and other eye conditions significantly more than men are. For example, of the approximately 3.6 million Americans age 40 or above who suffer from some vision loss up to and including blindness, approximately 2.3 million of them are women.
Some, but not all, of this difference is attributable to the fact that there simply are slightly more women than men in the population, and that women live longer than men and eye diseases strike the elderly in disproportionate numbers.
But beyond that, women are more prone to various eye diseases and other eye conditions, including:
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that lead to damage to the optic nerve, thereby hampering the transmission of information from the eye to the portion of the brain that interprets it into visual data. Peripheral vision is generally lost first, then the field of vision continues to shrink. Vision loss is generally very slow and gradual, and is irreversible. Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the world.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye that focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye. Cataracts progress slowly to cause vision loss, and ultimately blindness if left untreated. There is evidence, inconclusive thus far, that post-menopausal women receiving hormone replacement therapy may be at a greater risk for cataracts.
* Macular degeneration
Macular degeneration is the destruction of the macula, which is the central retina. The more common “dry” macular degeneration is slow and gradual; “wet” macular degeneration can occur more quickly. In contrast to glaucoma, macular degeneration attacks the center of the field of vision first.
* Diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is a disease that afflicts some people with diabetes. Insufficient oxygen is delivered to the retina, damaging retinal blood vessels, causing them to leak and the retina to swell. In some cases the eye generates new blood vessels, but these may grow in places that can cause retinal detachment. Diabetic retinopathy, if left untreated, can cause vision loss or blindness.
* Dry eye syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is a condition where insufficient natural tears are produced by the eye. Approximately twice as many women as men have moderate to severe dry eye syndrome. Pregnant or post-menopausal women are more susceptible to it due to hormonal fluctuations.
“Women More Susceptible to Sight-Threatening Eye Diseases and Conditions.” Prevent Blindness America.
“Women’s Eye Health Initiative.” UT Health Science Center.