In Australia, more than half of the population, that’s over 13 million, have a long-term vision disorder. According to The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s Eye Health web report, women make up the majority of those affected, with 59 per cent of females living with a long-term vision disorder compared to 51 per cent of males.
Optometry Australia’s 2020 Vision Index substantiates these figures, with close to two out of three (62 per cent) Australian women worried about the quality of their eyesight, compared to 57 per cent of men.
So why is this? Are women more susceptible to eye conditions? And what are these conditions? We’ve taken a closer look.
What’s causing such high rates?
There are a number of factors that contribute to high rates of eye related issues amongst women in Australia. These factors are predominantly behavioural and/or hormonal, with certain lifestyle habits and changes in progestogen and estrogen levels throughout various life phases playing a part in eye health.
Some of the more common causes include:
Amongst many changes to the body during pregnancy as a result of fluctuations in hormone levels, women can also anticipate their vision becoming slightly impaired. Expecting mothers may experience changes such as dry eyes, blurred or fluctuating vision, spots and floaters.
The good news is, for some women, these vision changes are temporary and will return to normal soon after giving birth. For others, interrupted sleep and hormonal changes that continue to play a part in the early months of having a newborn, may continue to cause symptoms of sore and tired eyes.
Hormonal changes later in life also play a part in the health of women’s vision. Changes in progestogen and estrogen levels during menopause can contribute to an increased risk of developing dry eyes, cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.
Menopause typically occurs in women between the ages of 45 and 60, with the average age for Australian and New Zealand women being 51 years. It’s vital that women in this age bracket are extra vigilant with their eye health and frequently visit their optometrist.
Several common eye conditions experienced by women, such as dry eye and conjunctivitis, are often linked to poor makeup hygiene and are consequences of cosmetic procedures. Concerningly, 40 per cent of Australians clean their makeup tools less than twice a year, which is potentially putting their eyes in close contact with infectious bacteria. This alongside the fact that there has been a rise in ocular complications resulting from cosmetic facial procedures in Australia, is an important reminder to maintain hygiene practices when it comes to beauty regimes.
What eye conditions impact women more?
Cataracts – Typically resulting with age, cataracts occur when the normally clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy, causing reduced vision. Everyone is at risk of developing cataracts, however rates of diagnosis are higher in women. Because women have a longer life expectancy, they are prone to developing eye related diseases that occur with aging, which includes cataracts.
Dry eye: Almost everyone has experienced a feeling of dry eye at some point, however women have much higher rates compared to men. In 2016, 11.4 million cases of dry eye syndrome were diagnosed in women compared with 5.2 million cases in men.
Presbyopia: A normal part of aging, Presbyopia is more noticeable between the ages of 40 and 50 as an inability to focus on near objects. It’s estimated around 687,200 Australians have presbyopia, making it our nation’s fourth most common eye condition. And whilst the disease impacts both men and women, rates of diagnosis occur earlier for women; mainly because they tend to do something about the problem sooner.
What can women do to prevent developing eye related issues?
Leading a healthy lifestyle, alongside regular visits to the optometrist are the best way to maintain good vision for life and the first step in ensuring the higher rates of vision problems amongst females begins to drop.
Regardless of our gender, there are a range of habits and lifestyle changes we can all make to ensure we’re protecting our vision, these include:
- Learn to look out for the warning signs of poor eye health and vision issues
- Always wear sunglasses when outdoors, both during winter and summer
- Maintain a healthy diet to ensure you’re getting essential nutrients to support good eye function
- Avoid excessive screen time by taking regular breaks from digital devices
- Always wear eye protection when doing DIY tasks around the home or at work
- Regularly replacing makeup products and maintain makeup hygiene
- If you wear contact lenses, make sure you maintain hygiene and correctly store your lenses
If you are experiencing changes to your vision or are concerned about your eyesight, visit your local optometrist for expert advice.