Eye and Vision Care
Dry Eye Syndrome Affects More Women Than Men
Dry Eye Syndrome, a painful condition that can impair vision and increase the risk of eye infection, affects millions of Americans. Dry Eye is actually a group of disorders caused by the inability to produce enough tears with sufficient lubrication. Symptoms can include burning or itchy eyes as well as increased eye mucus and a gritty or scratchy feeling on the eyes.
Dry Eye symptoms you may experience are:
- episodes of excess tears following very dry eye periods
- a stringy discharge from the eye
- pain and redness of the eye
- episodes of blurred vision
- heavy eyelids
- inability to cry when emotionally stressed
- uncomfortable contact lenses
- decreased tolerance of reading, working on the computer, or any activity that requires sustained visual attention
- eye fatigue
Dry Eye is one of the leading causes of visits to eye care professionals. Treatment options vary from eye drops and ointments to some types of surgery. If left untreated, this condition can lead to pain, ulcers, or scars on the cornea, and some loss of vision. However, permanent loss of vision from dry eye is uncommon. (NEI
The risk of Dry Eye increases with age. Other risk factors include patients who have undergone refractive surgery (such as LASIK), have severe allergies, are on certain medications, or are contact lens wearers. Those with rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases are also at increased risk.
Women are also more likely to develop Dry Eye. Approximately 6 million have moderate to severe symptoms of dry eye syndrome, as compared to 3 million men, according to the National Women's Health Resource Center
Women who are pregnant, on certain types of birth control, or experiencing menopause have increased rates of Dry Eye. In fact, according to the National Eye Institute
, women who are on hormone replacement therapy are also more likely to experience symptoms. Women taking only estrogen are 70 percent more likely to experience Dry Eye, and those taking estrogen and progesterone have a 30 percent increased risk of developing the condition.
Follow these tips to avoid irritation from Dry Eye:
- Use a humidifier to keep natural moisture in the air.
- Avoid hair dryers, harsh winds, overly warm rooms and cigarette smoke.
- When outdoors, wear goggles or sunglasses that wrap around the eyes.
- Use drops of artificial tears, if directed by your doctor, especially in climates with low humidity, in air conditioned environments, and in airplanes or cars when the heater or defroster is on.
- When using a computer, remember to blink often and give eyes a rest from staring at the screen.
- Apply a warm washcloth to soothe irritated eyes.
- Do not use harsh soaps or cleansers on around the eye area.
General Women's Eye Health
Not only do more women have Dry Eye, they are also more likely to develop eye diseases such as cataracts
. And, because of increased longevity, women are more likely to develop macular degeneration
. According to the Women's Eye Health Task Force
, risk factors for premature death due to heart disease or cancer put women at risk for blindness and vision impairment. These factors include:
- excess weight
- unhealthy diet
- lack of exercise
- exposure to UV rays
Follow these tips to help lower the incidence of eye diseases:
- Eat Healthy and Stay Fit - The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the risk of cataracts can be lowered by eating 3½ servings of fruits or vegetables a day. Green leafy vegetables especially contain loads of nutrients for the eye. Pairing a healthy diet with exercise will reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Take Supplements - Antioxidants have been shown to actually reduce the progression of some eye illnesses, including AMD. Vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin C and zinc are good sources to help maintain eye health.
- Quit Smoking - Besides the typically known side effects of smoking including cancer, lung disease, etc., it also increases the risk for eye diseases.
- Wear UV Eye Protection - When venturing outdoors, Prevent Blindness America recommends wearing brimmed hats in conjunction with UV-rated sunglasses (labeled: absorbs 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays). UV rays are extremely dangerous for the eyes.
- Know Your Family History - Genetics plays a key role in eye disease. Research your family's health history and notify your eye care professional of any eye diseases that run in the family.
It is imperative that women of every age make an appointment with their eye doctor as soon as possible to ensure that they are protecting their vision for the future.
This article is based, in part, on information provided by Prevent Blindness Ohio and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.
Vision Problems in the U.S.
Women's Eye Health Task Force
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Last Reviewed: Jun 24, 2011