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Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month

Research Shows Women Experience more Eye Problems

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womens eye health month

article by Prevent Blindness

Two out of every three people living with blindness or vision problems are women, according to the National Eye Institute. And, data from The Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems study shows that women are at higher risk for certain eye diseases and conditions. April was declared Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month in an effort to educate the public on the increased risk for women and vision health issues, as well as steps that can be taken to prevent vision loss.

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Women have a higher prevalence of major vision problems, including:

  • Age-related Macular Degeneration
  • Autoimmune Diseases (such as Lupus or Sjögren’s Syndrome)
  • Cataract
  • Dry Eye
  • Glaucoma
  • Low Vision
  • Thyroid Eye Disease
  • Refractive Error

According to the World Health Organization’s World Report on Vision, women, on average, live longer than men, and are thus at greater risk of developing eye conditions associated with ageing. However, even after controlling for age, global estimates suggest that women with moderate and severe presenting distance vision impairment outnumber men by approximately 7 percent.

Gender and financial disparities can also create barriers to eyecare access for women. A recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology found that although women were more likely to use eye care, they are also more likely to report difficulty affording eyeglasses than men.

In addition to eye disease and conditions, women have unique health issues related to pregnancy and menopause due to fluctuating hormone levels. Women may notice changes in their ability to see clearly during pregnancy. Women with pre-existing conditions, like glaucoma, high blood pressure or diabetes, need to alert their eye doctor that they are pregnant (or planning to become pregnant). Additionally, dry eye leading to a clinical diagnosis or severe symptoms affects more than 3.2 million American women middle-aged and older.

“We know that many women play a key role in the overall health of their whole families,” said Jeff Todd, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness. “We encourage them to take a moment to ensure their own vision health today and help protect eyesight in the future.”

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As ophthalmologists and optometrists re-open their practices after pauses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that women make their vision health a priority to help detect vision issues early. Early and consistent treatment for most eye diseases can significantly reduce the risk of vision loss.

 

Causes of dry eyes in winter and how to treat them

Medically reviewed by Jenna Stoddard, OD — Written by Hana Ames

shutterstock 707286685 scaledCold or windy weather and indoor heating may cause people to experience dry eyes more often in the winter months. Depending on the severity of their symptoms and any medications they may be taking, a person can use either over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications to treat their dry eyes.

Dry eye is a common condition that can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. According to the National Eye Institute, nearly 16 million people in the United States have dry eye.

There is some evidence to suggest that the seasons may impact the occurrence of dry eye.

Dry eyes in winter are common, but people can usually treat them with home remedies and self-care. Sometimes, however, dry eyes may require medical intervention.

Read on to learn about what people can do to treat symptoms of dry eyes at home. This article also covers when to contact a doctor

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Causes of Dry Eyes in Winter

There are many reasons that a person may experience dry eyes throughout the year. However, some reasons are specific to the winter months.

These include factors such as weather and heating. For example, cold and high winds blowing in a person’s face may cause their eyes to dry out. Indoor heating may also be a cause of dry eyes, and it is likely that people will use their heating more often in the colder months.

Some symptoms of dry eyes may include eyes that feel:

  • itchy
  • sore
  • gritty
  • red
  • sensitive to light

A person with dry eyes may also experience blurry vision and eyes that are more watery than usual.

Some general reasonsTrusted Source that a person may experience dry eyes include:

  • their glands not producing enough tears to keep the eyes moist
  • their tears drying too fast
  • their tears not keeping their eyes wet effectively enough

Medications

Some medications may cause dry eyes. However, it is important that people do not stop taking their prescribed medications without medical advice.

There may be alternatives that may not cause a person to experience dry eyes. Alternatively, it could be that it is more beneficial to treat dry eyes than to change medications.

Regardless, people should speak with the doctor who prescribed their medication regarding any side effects they may be experiencing.

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Treatment

There are a variety of treatment options that doctors may recommend, depending on the cause and severity of a person’s dry eyes.

Treatments may also vary depending on whether or not the dry eyes have a connection to a person’s allergies.

The sections below look at some treatment options for dry eyes in more detail.

OTC medications

A doctor may suggest OTC medications such as artificial tears. People can get these eye drops, which mimic natural tears to help lubricate the eyes, without a prescriptionTrusted Source.

There are many different types of eye drops that a person can buy, and people should try a variety to determine which option works best for them.

There are also specific options for people who use contact lenses and for people who need to use eye drops very frequently throughout the day.

Prescription medications

If a person finds themselves needing to use eye drops more frequently than the directions on the label of OTC eye drops recommend, they may require prescription eye drops.

A doctor or pharmacist can recommend the right prescription eye drops for an individual’s situation.

Indoor humidifiers

Sometimes, people may find that their dry eyes are due to the lack of humidity in the air. Using a humidifier may help with this. However, people who use humidifiers should ensure that they clean them regularly to avoid bacteria building up, as this can cause irritation to the eyes.

If a person does not have access to a humidifier, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends putting a pan of water near a heater or radiator for a similar effect.

Eye ointments

These ointments, which are an alternative to eye drops, are available either over the counter or with a prescription.

Eye ointments are thicker than eye drops and can, therefore, cause blurry vision in some cases. So, it may be best to apply them at nighttime.

Tear duct plugs

A person can also use specially designed silicon or gel plugs called punctal plugs to prevent tears from draining away too quickly. This can help keep the eyes moist for longer.

Warm compresses

Another home remedy that a person can try to relieve their dry eye symptoms is a warm compress.

To use a warm compress, a person should soak a clean washcloth in warm, not hot, water and apply it to the eye area for 10 minutes or so.

Surgery

In some rare cases, a person may have lower eyelids that are too loose, which can cause the tears to drain too quickly. In these cases, a doctor may recommend that they undergo surgery to adjust the eyelids.

In some cases, the doctor may recommend surgery to close the person’s tear ducts permanently.

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Prevention

There are some lifestyle changes and other methods that a person can try to help prevent dry eyes in winter. These include:

  • Blinking often: People should make sure that they are blinking regularly to ensure that their tears are thoroughly lubricating the eyes.
  • Avoiding hairdryers: Using hairdryers can increase the likelihood of a person’s eyes becoming dry.
  • Using indoor heating less often: People should try to keep their home as cool as they can bear so that the heating does not dry out their eyes.
  • Avoiding smoking: People may wish to consider quitting smoking and trying to avoid being around people who smoke, as smoke from cigarettes can irritate the eyes and cause them to dry out.
  • Wearing eye protection: Wearing wraparound glasses or goggles can help protect the eyes from the wind and other winter weather.
  • Limiting screen time: Often, when people spend a long time looking at screens, they may blink less. This can cause the eyes to dry out.
  • Drinking plenty of water: This helps keep people hydrated and, therefore, helps prevent dry eyes.

When to contact a Doctor

There are many things that a person can do at home to help relieve dry eyes without requiring medical intervention.

However, a person should visit a doctor if they:

  • have tried home remedies for a few weeks and still do not experience relief
  • have any worrisome changes to their vision, such as loss of vision
  • have dry eyes that are interfering with their day-to-day life
  • suspect that they have an underlying reason for their dry eyes

There are many underlying reasons that can cause a person to experience dry eyes. Some of these may include:

The doctor will be able to look into any underlying causes and prescribe stronger treatments that may be able to resolve a person’s dry eye symptoms.

Summary

It is quite common for people to experience dry eyes in the winter months.

There are many things that can cause this, including a lack of humidity, warm indoor air, and the wind.

Most of the time, people are able to use home remedies to help treat their dry eye symptoms. Occasionally, however, medical intervention may be necessary.

How Sleep Apnea Affects The Eyes

Did you know that some eye conditions are associated with sleep apnea? According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and Health Canada reports similar prevalence. It’s a sleep disorder where people stop breathing — often multiple times per night — while sleeping.

If you have sleep apnea: it tends to take longer for your tears to be replenished, you’re more likely to have ocular irritation, you have a higher chance of developing floppy eyelids, and you’re at increased risk for glaucoma.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are different types of sleep apnea. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During OSA, your airway becomes partially blocked due to relaxed muscles in your nose and throat. This causes apnea (the absence of breathing) or hypopnea (abnormally shallow, slow breathing). It’s twice as common in men, and is more likely to affect people with obesity, hypertension, diabetes or heart disease. 

What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body’s oxygen supply, which can lead to potentially serious health consequences. 

While snoring is a common symptom, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Interrupted sleep can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability or depression, headaches in the morning, difficulty concentrating and thinking, and a sore throat.

Which Eye Conditions Are Associated With Sleep Apnea?

Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when increased pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, leading to vision loss and sometimes blindness. In some cases, it might be due to a drop in blood oxygen levels, which happens when you stop breathing. However, CPAP machines, one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea, can also cause glaucoma. 

So, people with sleep apnea — even if it’s being treated — need to get their eyes checked on a regular basis for glaucoma.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome 

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) is an eye condition where a person has an unusually large and floppy upper eyelid. It can cause eye redness, irritation, discharge, or blurry vision — and over 90% of people with FES also have sleep apnea.

Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is an eye condition that occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the optic nerve. Patients typically complain of significant vision loss in one eye without any major pain. Approximately 70-80% of patients with NAION have been found to have OSA.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

Also referred to as an ‘eye stroke,’ retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a blockage of the small veins that carry blood away from the retina. A recent study of 114 RVO patients found that sleep apnea was suspected in 74% of the patients that had previously been diagnosed with RVO. 

Other Eye Health Issues Associated With Sleep Apnea

Some other ocular conditions that are more common in patients with sleep apnea include: papilledema, keratoconus, and central serous chorioretinopathy. Furthermore, in addition to glaucoma mentioned above, CPAP machines are associated with dry eye syndrome and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Talk To Your Doc

Get eye exams regularly to rule out eye disorders and prevent potential vision loss, especially if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. At Family Eye Professionals in Chicago Ridge we encourage you to share your medical history with us so we can better diagnose and treat any eye conditions or ocular diseases you may have, and help you keep your eyes nice and healthy.

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