In commemoration of International Women’s Day, Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, one of India’s largest networks of eye hospitals, is conducting free eye checkup camp for women of all age groups across all branches in Telangana till March 31, 2022. For registration, contact 9619334129.
The hospital has made special arrangements for screening for certain eye diseases and disorders that women are at a higher risk of getting, and the prevalence rate of which has seen a rise among women in recent times. Such issues include age-related macular degeneration, ocular manifestations of autoimmune diseases, cataract, dry eye, glaucoma, low vision, thyroid eye diseases, and refractive errors.
The hospital will also conduct awareness sessions on the steps women have to take to minimize the risks of eye diseases that arise from factors exclusive to them: hormonal surges during pregnancy, menopause, and susceptibility to autoimmune diseases, among others.
In her comments, Dr Ayyagari Aparna, Senior Consultant- Ophthalmologist, Dr Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, said, “Biological sex differences does affect ocular structure, gene expression, tear composition and output, and other functions of eye that influence eye health. Hence, regular eye examinations are doubly important for women. They should also consult doctors about taking nutritional supplements. Women should wear UV-blocking sunglasses and brimmed hats when they venture out. They must exercise caution and follow hygiene practices while using eye cosmetics and contact lenses safely to avoid eye infections.”
On the connection between pregnancy and eye diseases, Dr Aparna, said that during pregnancy, the body tends to hold more water. This can thicken the cornea and alter the front surface of the eye. These changes affect how eyes refract light and cause vision problems. The eye pressure too can decrease slightly during this period. Pregnant women could develop gestational diabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels become high during pregnancy, and some may develop diabetic retinopathy, vision issues caused by damage to blood vessels in the eye. Pregnancy can also cause dry eyes, and light sensitivity. Hormones in birth control pills can cause vascular changes, indirectly contributing to vision problems.
“It is important for pregnant women to nourish the entire body, including eyes. They have to eat lots of leafy green vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish high in omega-3s. They have to keep their body hydrated all the time,” Dr Aparna said.
On the connection between eye health and menopause, Dr Aparna said that menopause and perimenopause, the time when the body makes the natural transition to menopause, usually accompany a dip in estrogens, a group of hormones. Estrogens keep the cornea, the eye’s clear, protective outer layer, flexible so it can focus light better. When estrogens drop, the oil glands in the eye produce less lubrication, causing dry eyes and blurry vision. Studies find that for individuals over 50 years, women are twice as likely to have dry eyes compared to men.
On how higher susceptibility of women to autoimmunity and its effects on their eyes, Dr Aparna said, “About 80% of those affected by autoimmune issues are women. Eye inflammation is one of the many possible effects of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, psoriasis, Reiter’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and uveitis. Rheumatoid arthritis can cause dryness, inflammation of the conjunctiva, thinning of the cornea, and other painful ocular conditions, while uveitis directly affects the pigmented cells of the iris.”
She added that Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder, which results in overactive thyroid gland (leading to overproduction of the thyroid hormone) affects more women than men. An overactive thyroid can cause numerous issues for the eyes such as bulging, redness and inflammation of the conjunctiva (the white part of the eye), dry eyes, sensitivity to light and double vision. In contrast, too little thyroid hormone causes eyelids to droop and the face and eyes to become puffy. Thyroid eye diseases affect 16 in 100,000 women, while only 3 in the male population of equal size.
Dr Aparna pointed out that since women tend to live longer than men, they are more likely to develop eye diseases related to advanced age. Also, statistically, women take more prescription and over-the-counter drugs than men. Many of these medicines carry serious eye-related side effects. Women report longer migraine attacks, increased recurrence, greater disability, and longer recovery times. Migraine is often associated with visual impairments including photophobia, visual aura, and transient vision loss.
She hoped that the month-long eye checkup and awareness campaign of the hospital throughout Telangana would make women aware of the risks, better informed and would result in early diagnosis and early intervention for better eye health outcomes.