Healthy Vision Month
Alice* is a 71-year-old woman who lives alone but is actively involved in her community. For the past 3 years, she has volunteered for an afterschool tutoring program helping kindergartners to read. As she has helped young students read their assignments, Alice has noticed the straight lines in the books begin to appear wavy. Seeing at night and recognizing faces have become more and more difficult.
Alice is showing signs of age-related macular degeneration. This is one of the many eye diseases, such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma, that disproportionately affect women. Having regular eye exams is an important prevention strategy for many of these diseases.
Age-related macular degeneration is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys central vision. Increased age, smoking, obesity, and being white appear to place individuals at increased risk for age-related macular degeneration.
Given the many causes of eye diseases that range from age-related macular degeneration to cataracts, women are more likely than men to become blind from these conditions. In the world, an estimated 37 million people are blind; women bear two-thirds of this burden.1,2 Women may be more likely to develop age related eye disease because they live longer; however, there is also the possibility that women are biologically predisposed for certain diseases.
Women are a powerful influence within their families. A woman’s knowledge about her own health not only helps herself but also her family. She is often the one who coordinates the care for her spouse and children. If you are a caretaker or just a concerned member of your community, take the quiz in the sidebar to see if you know the necessary information to help prevent eye disease in your family or your community. 3
* This is an example of what many people with age-related macular degeneration may experience. Models are for illustrative purposes only.
2 Abou-Gareeb I, Lewallen S, Bassett K, Courtright P. Gender and blindness: a meta-analysis of population-based prevalence surveys.Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2001 Feb;8(1):39–56.