April is National Women’s Eye Health Month, and believe it or not, women make up the majority of the 4.4 million Americans age 40 and older who are visually impaired or blind. In an effort to educate women about ways they can protect their eyes and vision, Dr. Teri Whittaker, O.D., with McFarland Eye Care, stopped by to give us the scoop on what ladies need to know about eye care.
Pregnancy and Vision Changes
Adding a new member to the family can add stress and the realization of new changes to your body, and your eyes aren’t excluded. Dry eye syndrome, light sensitivity, prescription changes and eye puffiness are the most common eye-related changes in pregnant women. While these changes are oftentimes temporary and usually go back to normal shortly after the baby is born, talk to your eye care physician if you experience any long-term discomfort after giving birth to your little bundle of joy.
Menopause and Dry Eye
Dry eye syndrome affects an estimated 3.2 million women in America, and it is a little known symptom of menopause. “Many women going through menopause experience dry eye syndrome or worsening pre-existing symptoms,” says Whittaker. “Hormones are likely to blame in these occurrences, and it important to have a talk with your eye care physician if you are experiencing any differences in your eyes or vision.” It has been proven that plummeting hormone levels can affect the ocular tissues and composition of tears. If scratchy, itchy or burning eyes are an issue for you and you are between the ages of 35-55, you may want to consider talking to your doctor or eye care physician.
A healthy diet makes for healthy eyes. And, while carrots may be known for boosting eye health, “anything that’s good for your overall health is most likely good for your eyes as well,” says Whittaker. It is recommended that women eat a diet rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids to help keep clear and sharp vision as they age.
Regular exercise not only benefits your heart and waistline, but it has also been proven to reduce the chances of eye disease. In fact, physically active individuals are less likely to get cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma. “The benefits to an active lifestyle are endless. From a brisk walk, to a little time on the treadmill, a little can go a long way in regards to your eye health. Just remember to always wear UV eye protection when exercising outdoors!”
Get Your Eyes Checked
Last, but not least, be sure you are getting your eyes checked regularly. Many eye diseases come without much notice or warning, and a yearly comprehensive eye exam is crucial to combating these diseases. Whittaker says, “Women make up the largest group of people affected by eye problems and diseases, so it is especially important for us to have regular eye checkups.”
Dr. Whittaker sees patients at McFarland Eye Care in its Bryant and Little Rock locations. She provides general eye care, refractions, complete eye exams and also assists with pre- and post-operative care.