April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month

LookingattheEye - USC Roski Eye InstituteFact: The single largest group with visual impairment in the nation is older non-Hispanic white women

Recent studies conducted by a team at USC Roski Eye Institute, revealed that while Hispanics and African-Americans are estimated to continue to suffer from a disproportionate burden of vision loss, the single largest group with visual impairment in the United States is older non-Hispanic white women. Now more than ever we should underscore the importance of Women’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness month, in light of this alarming fact and other past studies[i]. While in general, women are at higher risk of developing certain eye diseases than men, the diagnosis of serious eye diseases in the aging population of women has also gone up. According to a recent world health report, women have a higher life expectancy than men[ii], making them more susceptible to age-related eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Perhaps less commonly known, potentially devastating vision complications can arise from autoimmune diseases as well, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Such diseases are found to be more prevalent in women than in men.

Education and Prevention are Keys to Healthy Vision

Sheila Papayans, diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration
Sheila Papayans, diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration

Sheila Papayans watched helplessly as age–related macular degeneration (AMD) took away her sister’s eyesight. Sheila had the same condition and was anticipating the same outcome. Attuned to any changes in her vision, Sheila noticed a sudden distortion in what she saw with her left eye. Wasting no time, she came to the USC Roski Eye Institute. Lisa Olmos de Koo, MD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, and retinal specialist, confirmed that Sheila had early wet macular degeneration of the left eye and prescribed a regimen of therapeutic injections. Sheila agreed to start that very same day.Treatment was highly successful, likely because Sheila noticed symptoms early and responded immediately. Sheila also began taking age-related eye disease formula vitamins to reduce the risk of developing wet AMD in her right eye.Two years later, Sheila has no further symptoms of wet AMD in her left eye. Her right eye, highly susceptible to wet AMD, remains dry. Now enjoying good vision in both eyes, Sheila remains vigilant and grateful.

Luckily, Sheila knew her family history and was educated about the symptoms of wet-AMD. Her early action saved her from a lifetime of suffering and potential blindness.

For healthy vision, the physicians at the USC Roski Eye Institute recommend:

  • Regular check-ups – if you have a family history or notice any onset of vision impairment.
  • Exercise – is essential as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol put you at higher risk of vision complications.
  • Eat a healthy well-balanced diet – to ensure you are protecting your vision by eating such as leafy greens, or foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids and carotene and vitamins C, E and A.
  • Do not smoke, especially if you are pregnant – you may be at higher risk of developing complicated eye diseases, and babies may be born with severe eye conditions.
  • Diabetes should be controlled – if one does not control their diabetes, it may lead to blindness.


by Debbie Mitra

[i] 2012 study by Prevent Blindness America, “Vision Problems in the US”, www.visionproblemsus.org

[ii] http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/91/9/12-109710/en/

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