There is good reason to call attention to women’s vision. The Lancet Global Health Commission on Global Eye Health: Vision Beyond 2020, is an analysis of vision and eye health research done in the past 20 years. One of many findings was that women are at higher risk for vision impairment and blindness than men yet are less likely to receive treatment. The numbers showed that there are more women than men living with blindness, and moderate and severe vision impairment (MSVI) in all regions of the world. And projections suggest that the proportion of women with vision loss will increase.
The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) shares statistics for the United States. Twenty-six percent more women than men over the age of 12 have uncorrected visual impairment due to refractive error. Two times more women than men over the age of 50 have dry eye disease (influenced by hormonal changes during menopause). Sixty-five percent of individuals with age-related macular degeneration are women. Sixty-one percent of individuals with cataract are women. Sixty-seven percent of individuals with glaucoma are women. And thyroid eye disease (TED) is five to six times more common in women than men. What’s more, a Prevent Blindness survey revealed that most people were misinformed about women’s vision, and many individuals, especially women, were also unaware that there are gender-specific symptoms and risks associated with vision health.
Why the disparity? The Lancet cites women living longer than men as one reason, but worldwide, women have reduced access to eyecare and health care coverage. They also note that services often aim to deliver 50 percent of services to women to be equitable. However, when there are more women than men with vision loss, 50 percent doesn’t relate to the number of women in need of care. When we know that vision loss has a profound impact on overall health, well-being, social inclusion, education, quality of life and economy, and more than 90 percent of people with vision impairment have a preventable or treatable cause, the solution is to raise awareness of vision care inequality and take action.
While improving women’s vision health care on a global level is daunting, we can begin in our own corner of the world. We can help women get one step ahead through education and information. Use social media to share tips to help women protect their vision. Host a vision care education event at your office, and perhaps tie it in with a trunk show. Use your imagination to get the word out and be the change.
• Linda Conlin
Pro to Pro Managing Editor