April is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month

By Tri-Service Vision Conservation and Readiness Program Staff, U.S. Army Public Health CommandApril 1, 2014

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Women are often responsible for taking care of their family's health concerns but often neglect their own health, including the health of their eyes. Did you know that women account for two-thirds of people in the world affected by visual impairments and blindness even though they represent only 53 percent of the population?

The rate of eye disease is on the rise in the United States, mostly because people are living longer. Women, on average, live longer than men. As a result, more women are susceptible to age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, dry eyes, glaucoma, diabetic changes of the eye and other conditions. Because of this, Prevent Blindness America has designated April as Women's Eye Health and Safety Month to help educate women about the steps they should take to make eye health a priority. While the following recommendations apply to everyone, during April the emphasis is for women to take care of themselves as well as their families.

Get routine eye care. Many causes of eye-related problems are preventable, so all women should make eye examinations a regular part of their healthcare routine. Even if no eye-related symptoms are present, it is recommended that all women receive a comprehensive eye examination at least by the age of 40 and obtain routine follow-up care as recommended by their eye care professional. Remember that an eye exam evaluates much more than just blurry vision.

Know your family history. Genetics plays an important role in what diseases people may be at risk for, including eye diseases. It is important to notify your eye care professional of any conditions that your ancestors may have had. In some cases, this information may prevent or lessen the possibility of those conditions occurring in you.

Eat healthy and exercise. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly are important in maintaining a proper weight and reducing the risk for certain conditions. Healthy habits can also help guard against vision loss. Obesity, a lack of exercise, stress and a bad diet can affect the health of your eyes.

Avoid smoke. Smoking, including secondhand smoke, increases the risk for certain eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Avoid smoking and being around secondhand smoke.

Wear good sunglasses. Ultraviolet light exposure has also been linked to the development of cataracts and macular degeneration. When people are outside, it is recommended they wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection.

Use cosmetics and contacts safely. The rules for using cosmetics and contact lenses safely are easy. Wash your hands first. Throw away old makeup and contacts. Do not share them with others. Do not apply them while driving. By following these directions, individuals can prevent serious eye infections that could result in permanent vision loss.

Remember, if you are responsible for making certain that everyone is healthy, it is important to continue to take care of the family and yourself. Taking care of your eyes is an easy way to assist in meeting those important functions for years to come.

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U.S. Army Public Health Command