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What Every Woman Should Know About Health and Vision

It's April, which is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month.

Women go through many changes during their lifetime. Each change could affect her vision differently. Eye disease among the female population is being diagnosed in increasing numbers, more notably in middle-aged women. In fact, studies indicate that the majority of women over the age of 40 have some type of eyesight impairment, and are at risk of developing conditions such as cataracts, dry eyes, glaucoma and diabetes-related retinopathy. It's worth noting that the risk of women developing vision impairments has become more common as a result of women's increasing lifespan.

For women, an initial step to take to maintain good sight is to make a proper eye exam part of your regular health routine. Make sure that you have a comprehensive eye checkup before you turn 40, and that you don't forget to follow up with the advice your eye care professional recommends. Also, know your family history, as your genes are a highly relevant part of understanding, diagnosing and stopping vision loss.

In addition, maintain a healthful, varied diet and be sure to include foods full of beta carotene, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, which all help protect against vision loss as a result of eye disease. If possible, you should also take vitamin A, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C tablets, which are all strong starting points to keeping up top-notch eye care.

For women who smoke, make a decision to quit, as even second-hand smoke can add to the risk of eye disease and is a known factor in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts. Ultraviolet rays, which can also be a party to the development of cataracts and AMD, are extremely dangerous to your vision. When outside, and not just during the summer, make sure to put on complete UV blocking sunglasses as well as a wide brimmed hat to protect your eyes from the sun.

Changes in hormone levels, like those that take place during pregnancy and menopause, can also slightly change your vision. Sometimes, these shifts can even make the use of contact lenses ineffective or slightly painful. If you're pregnant, you may want to shorten lens wearing time and alter your eyeglass prescription as needed. It's worthwhile to make an appointment with your eye doctor at some point during your pregnancy to talk about any eyesight or vision shifts you may be experiencing.

It is also important to shield your eyes from dangers at home, like domestic cleaners. Be sure that domestic chemicals, including cleaners, paints and strong detergents are stored safely and are out of reach of young children. Scrub your hands thoroughly after working with all chemicals and use eye protection if using strong substances. Use proper safety goggles when repairing things at home, especially when working with potentially dangerous objects or tools.

As a woman, it is important to be educated about the dangers and options when it comes to your eye care. And of course, it can't hurt to inform the women you know, such as daughters and friends, on the best ways to protect their eye health.

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