Why Black Women’s Eye Health Is More At Risk
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We’ve seen the best of times, we’ve seen the worst of times. And we’re living in a time when “seeing is believing.” Yet, every day, people put their eyes at risk. And according to researchers, women in particular are more at risk than men.
Perhaps your eyes have felt irritated recently or you noticed blurry vision sometimes, and you’ve chalked it up to the new eye make-up, or restless sleep. Could it be that you’re taking your eyesight for granted?
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So What Do We Know?
• Two thirds of blindness and visual impairment occurs in women
• Three quarters of visual impairment is estimated to be preventable or correctable
• One third of age-related macular disease and cataract may be due to smoking
• Four fifths of blindness and visual impairment occurs in developing countries
In families today, women make many of the health care provider choices, and it is very important for women and family members to have their eyes examined regularly. It’s very important to catch early signs of these serious eye diseases. Remember, many diseases that cause vision loss are preventable or controllable, as is vision loss itself, and that is why examinations are important.
Causes of vision loss can be due to infection, trauma, birth defect, or chronic disease (like hypertension, diabetes, asthma). Looking at chronic disease, we know that hypertension and diabetes are rampant in certain ethnic and racial groups. We also know there are potential vision problems with poorly managed diabetes. In fact, many diseases of the body can manifest in the eye. For example, diabetes can result in diabetic retinopathy. What’s more, that may be the first sign of diabetes.
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It is possible, however, to slow down the onset and progression of retinopathy. Studies also show that controlled blood pressure and cholesterol can reduce the risk of vision loss. So this means it is important to manage these conditions correctly with diet and medication when necessary.
Eye Diseases That Affect Women More
According to the National Eye Institute, the number of Americans with major eye diseases is increasing, and vision loss is becoming a major public health problem.
“14 million people suffer from vision impairment,” says Dr. Hilary Hawthorne, founder of the Community Eye Center Optometry in Los Angeles.
The most common causes of visual impairment are cataract, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. These are expected to be more common in older women, yet they can also occur in women as young as 20 to 40 years of age. Certain forms of cataract, dry eye syndrome, thyroid disease (which can be associated with serious eye disease), autoimmune diseases (chronic, systemic illnesses that affect the whole body), and age-related afflictions such as macular degeneration are all more prevalent in women than in men, in part because women tend to live longer.
“The number one global cause of blindness is cataract impairment,” says Hawthorne. “Not only are women affected more, but also people with brown eyes.”
When it comes to women and their eyes, there are some crucial tidbits of information that many people are not aware of. It is simply untrue that what you don’t know can’t hurt you.
Feast Your Eyes
Taking care of your eyes and your overall health is a crucial step to preventing vision loss from common eye problems.
“Vision impairment is mostly preventable,” says Hawthorne. “It’s about making behavorial changes. Right now, because of the increasing diabetes epidemic, in addition to other factors, blindness and other vision impairments are expected to double by 2030. Add the fact that 4 out 5 black women are either overweight or obese, and it becomes even more understandable how lifestyle plays a vital role in eye care.”
A number of studies published in the Journal of Nutrition support the idea that both prevention and help for many health problems are in your grocer’s fruit and vegetable aisle! Women are often the ones who often choose the foods for the diet in the home, so choose well. Don’t underestimate the importance of Vitamin A, zinc, anti-oxidants, and minerals to eye health. You can prevent or slow vision loss by what you eat.
See to your health, inspire others to live healthfully, and help your loved ones and communities continue to be people of great vision. Your eyes will thank you.
Visit the BlackDoctor.org Eye and Vision center for more helpful articles and tips.