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Women's Eye Health

Did you notice a change in your vision during your last pregnancy? Are you concerned about your risk for developing glaucoma because your mother had it? Will menopause affect your contact lens wear? What about wearing makeup and contact lenses?

The many stages of a woman's life can have an impact on her vision. As a woman, you may experience hormonal changes and environmental factors - like the use of makeup - that can make contact lenses ineffective or even uncomfortable to wear. And, as we age, our eyesight usually undergoes subtle changes. In addition, we can inherit certain eye diseases from our parents or have a higher incidence of developing these diseases. Read on to learn more about your eye health.

Care with cosmetics

  • Never use anyone else's cosmetics. Even if the mascara belongs to your best friend, don't use it. First, infections are transmitted this way. Second, you may find that you are allergic to her brand of eye makeup.
  • Avoid using old eye cosmetics. Eye makeup should be discarded every three to four months. Old makeup can become contaminated, even if you only use it once or twice a year.
  • Watch for allergic reactions. You may develop allergies to products that you have been using for years or you may be sensitive to certain ingredients in a product. Both can cause reactions in your eyes or on the sensitive skin around your eyes. If this happens, be cautious in trying new eye care, skin care and makeup products. Also, be sure to avoid actual contact with the eye when applying products around the eye.

    Do you wear contact lenses?

  • If you wear contacts, choose a water-based, hypoallergenic liquid foundation, instead of cream, to prevent leaving a film on your lenses. You should avoid lash-extending mascara, which has fibers that can irritate the eyes, and waterproof mascara, which cannot be easily removed with water and may stain soft contact lenses.
  • Avoid using hand creams or lotion before handling contacts; they can leave a film on your lenses. Use an oil-free moisturizer. Also, keep false eyelash cement, nail polish and remover, perfume and cologne, which can damage the plastic, away from lenses.
  • Hairspray should be used before putting in contacts. If used while they are in, close your eyes during spraying. Put on soft contact lenses before applying makeup.
  • In addition, you should always wash your hands thoroughly before putting in your contacts.

    Have you noticed changes in your vision while using oral contraceptives, or during pregnancy or menopause?
    Hormonal changes, such as pregnancy, menstrual cycles and menopause, can cause physiological and visual changes in the eyes. Pregnancy and the accompanying hormonal metabolic and vascular changes can make it difficult for some women to wear contact lenses. Women may want to reduce contact lens wearing time and update eyeglass prescriptions as needed. In addition, some women experience changes in the eyes from one pregnancy to the next. For example, during a first pregnancy, some women experience no eye changes or discomfort and then struggle with lens intolerance during the second pregnancy.
         Although research is not yet conclusive, studies suggest that rapid change in estrogen levels, as well as high and low levels of estrogen, may affect the eye differently. Currently, more research is being conducted to define and treat these vision problems unique to women.
         Finally, a note to women taking estrogen supplements: According to a study by the national Eye Institute, women who took estrogen supplements for at least 10 years after menopause were less likely to have cataracts.

    Do you have a family history of glaucoma?
    Family history plays a part in the incidence of this eye disease and other eye conditions. Know your family history, and if these risk factors exist, be sure to have a regular eye examination by your eye doctor.

    Maintain your eye health
    Statistically, women make the majority of the family's health-care decisions. Therefore, it is a good idea to take steps to maintain your own and your family's eye health through routine eye care and preventive measures. Since vision changes can sometimes occur without you noticing them, you and your family should have regular, complete eye examinations.

    Who to see

  • Ophthalmologists (Eye M.D.s) are medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy who specialize in the diagnoses and treatments of eye diseases. They have completed four years of college premedical training, four years of medical school, one year of internship, and three years or or more of specialized medical training and experience in eye care. They may perform surgery and prescribe drugs and corrective lenses.
  • Optometrists hold a four-year graduate professional degree in optometry and must complete special exams to receive a state license. Optometrists diagnose eye diseases and provide treatments, including corrective lenses. For a condition requiring medication or surgery, an optometrist will refer patients to an ophthalmologist or other medical specialist.
  • Opticians fit, supply and adjust eyeglasses and contact lenses prescribed by ophthalmologists and optometrists. They cannot examine or test eyes, nor can they prescribe glasses or medication.

    The following recommendations are based on a person with normal vision. See your eye doctor more frequently if you wear corrective lenses, have a family history of an eye disease or if specific problems exist.

    AgeRecommended Frequency
    ChildrenBy 6 months, age 3, prior to kindergarten, and every 2 years thereafter
    18-40Every 2 to 3 years
    41-60Every 2 years

     Vision Topics
    Glaucoma Cataracts
    Macular Degeneration Sports
    Sunglasses Vision Test
    Car Battery Amblyopia and Strabismus
    Women's Eye Health Diabetic Retinopathy

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