More women than men have eye disease, including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. These numbers will only continue to increase, according to a study by the organization Prevent Blindness. As eye doctors know, prevention and early detection are crucial to lessening the effects of these diseases that can steal patients’ vision.
91% of women do not know they are at significantly greater risk of permanent vision loss than men.
However, the message is not reaching enough women. A Harris poll found that 91 percent of women in the U.S. did not know they were at significantly greater risk of permanent vision loss than men. And another survey found that one in four women had not received an eye exam in the past two years.
Given that April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month, this is the perfect time to educate your female patients about taking care of their eye health today to help preserve their vision in the future. Here are some tips for educating female patients who are more likely to be affected by vision problems.
Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant should be aware of possible vision changes during pregnancy. Let these patients know that changes in hormone levels can alter their eyeglasses or contact lens prescription. Reassure them that this is usually temporary and nothing to worry about, and encourage them to come see you if they have questions or think they need a new prescription after they’ve given birth.
If they suffer from dry eye.
Women are also more likely to develop dry eye disease. This can occur temporarily during pregnancy, or as women get older. Talk to your pregnant patients suffering from dry eye about whether artificial tears could help them, and which products are safe to use during pregnancy. Nearly 3 million women in the U.S. age 50 or older are estimated to have dry eye, according to the National Eye Institute. Women who are on hormone replacement therapy are especially prone to dry eye symptoms. Let them know that there are many treatment options available to help.
For more on this topic, download our new eBook, Building Your Dry Eye Center of Excellence.
If they have diabetes.
Any female patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes—as well as those who develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy—need to be reminded to watch their vision closely. Explain that blurred vision may indicate elevated blood sugar levels.
Over 5 million of the 18 million+ Americans affected by diabetes don’t know they have the disease, which can lead to diabetic retinopathy.
Of course, given that diabetes affects about 18.2 million Americans and 5.2 million of those people don’t know they have the disease, doctors need to be proactive about diagnosing and educating patients. Explain that diabetes increases their risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.
If their ethnicity puts them at higher risk.
Research is growing that proves certain minority groups are at greater risk for serious eye conditions that can cause vision loss and blindness if left untreated. In particular, Americans of African, Latino, and Asian heritage have a higher risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataracts, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. If your patient population includes minority women, consider tailoring your educational materials accordingly.
At any stage of life.
No matter what stage of life your female patients are in, it’s important for them to know that lifestyle changes can make a big difference in their eye health. As their doctor, you can reinforce healthy behaviors such as quitting smoking, taking supplements (as approved by a medical professional), learning about any family history of eye disease, and wearing UV-blocking sunglasses and a brimmed hat outdoors.
The number-one message for all women: get a full, dilated eye exam from a trusted eye care professional.
And the number-one message for all of your female patients is: get a full, dilated eye exam from a trusted eye care professional today. For more information and resources on women’s eye health, Prevent Blindness created the website, See Jane See: Women’s Healthy Eyes Now.
And for more ideas on educating at-risk patients, visit the Patient Education section of our blog.