Women’s Eye Health and Safety
There are several positive aspects of being a woman optometrist in a field that is still largely male-dominated. One is the look of surprise I still sometimes get when I walk in the room and the patient realizes Dr. Thomas is not a man! On a more serious note though, being a woman gives me the unique opportunity to relate to my female patients and have open conversations about what we face in regards to eye health.
Many of the challenges women face relating to their eyes are directly a result of varying hormones.
One such time is during pregnancy, when the body is adjusting to the new life inside of it. My pregnant patients have often come to me complaining that their vision has changed suddenly, or that their contact lenses are now too uncomfortable to wear consistently. Both of these issues are common as hormonal fluctuations happen. Dry eyes cause irritation with contact lenses, and fluid retention in the surface tissue of the eyes can blur vision. Luckily, most of these issues resolve after the baby is born. Other eye problems during pregnancy can be from gestational diabetes or preeclampsia (typically marked by high blood pressure). Always get a comprehensive eye examination during pregnancy to check for any of these problems!
Dry eyes can also be difficult for women later in life, typically after age 50. Hormonal changes start happening again, which results in a disruption of normal tear production. Studies have shown an average of almost 8% of women in this age group have severe dry eye symptoms, with a greater percentage experiencing mild to moderate symptoms. These include burning, excess watering of the eyes, a foreign body sensation, and even itching. For contact lens wearers, this can be harder to combat. Dry eyes can also be worsened by many prescription medications. However, there are several treatment options available. We recommend omega-3 supplements to decrease inflammation, artificial tears for surface moisture, and even prescription eye drops to increase tear production. Do not hesitate to ask your optometrist about dry eyes at your next appointment.
As women, we often find ourselves taking care of others, whether it is children, spouses, or aging parents. This makes eye health and great vision even more important. Don’t forget to take care of yourself! This includes drinking plenty of water, protecting your eyes with shatter-proof lenses, eating healthy foods, and seeing an eye doctor for routine checkups. Whether your Vision Source optometrist is a man OR woman, we are all here to help you!
Dr. Emily Thomas is an optometrist in Vision Clinic a multi-location Vision Source private practice in Springfield, Missouri and surrounding areas.