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Women and Healthy Eyes

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

The many stages of a woman's life can have an impact on her vision. Eye disease in women is increasingly common, more notably in middle-aged women. Actually, studies indicate that the majority of women going through middle age have some sort of eyesight impairment, and risk developing conditions including but not limited to cataracts, dry eyes, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. It's worth noting that the risk of women experiencing vision loss has become more common due to the female population's growing lifespan.

For women, the first step you can take to maintain strong vision is to make a proper eye exam part of your regular health check up. Make sure that you have a full eye checkup before reaching the age of 40, and that you don't forget to follow up with the care your eye care professional encourages. Secondly, be familiar with your family history, as your genetics are a key part of understanding, diagnosing and preventing eye conditions. Be sure to look into your family's eye and health history and alert your eye doctor of any diseases that show up.

In addition, eat a healthful, varied diet and don't forget to include foods full of beta carotene, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, which all help protect against eyesight loss from eye disease. It's recommended that you also take vitamin C, riboflavin and vitamin A tablets, which are all great starting points to managing optimal eye care.

If you smoke, make a decision to stop, as even second-hand smoke can increase the risk of eye disease and is a known factor in the macular degeneration that can come with aging (AMD) and cataracts. UV rays, which can also aid in the development of cataracts and AMD, are very harmful to your eyes. When outside, and not just during the summer, be sure to put on complete UV blocking sunglasses and a sun hat to protect your eyes from the sun.

Hormonal shifts like those that occur when a woman goes through pregnancy or menopause, can also affect your vision. Often, these shifts can even make contacts less effective or uncomfortable. During pregnancy, you might want to shorten lens wearing time and adjust your prescription as needed. It's recommended to book an appointment with your eye care professional during your pregnancy to discuss any eye or vision changes you may be experiencing.

There are also several precautions to take to shield your eyes from dangers at home, such as cleaning supplies. Check that domestic chemicals, including cleaners, bleach and pesticides are stored safely and properly, and are locked away from small children. Scrub your hands properly after touching all chemicals and use eye protection when using strong chemicals. Use safety goggles when fixing things around the house, most importantly when working with potentially dangerous objects or power tools.

If used carelessly, eye makeup might also be a safety hazard for your eyes. Particularly when it comes to eye makeup, never use anyone else's products. Avoid using old eye shadow, mascara or eyeliner and throw away anything that's older than about four months, particularly products that are aqueous. Watch for any allergic reactions and cease use right away if you see inflammation in or near the eyes. Be aware also that you can develop allergies to products you've been fine with for years. And as a general rule, be sure to avoid touching the eye when using eye makeup.

Women need to be informed of the risks and choices when it comes to your eye care. And also, it can never hurt to educate the other women in your life, such as daughters and friends, about how to protect their eye health.