You might be surprised to learn that blindness has a gender bias. “Most people aren’t aware that two-thirds of people who are blind are women,” says Assumpta Madu, M.D., an ophthalmologist at NYU Langone. “There’s a much larger preponderance to blindness and vision impairment for women compared to men.”
Here’s what you need to know about why your eyesight may be at risk.
1 Unfortunately, menopause doesn’t just wreak havoc on your body temperature and mood—it can also lead to vision problems. Madu says that women undergoing menopause are predisposed to getting glaucoma, an eye disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve and can lead to blindness. But things get worse for women who experience menopause before the age of 45. “Early menopause increases risk of developing glaucoma over two and a half times,” she says
2 You only have to look at the numbers to link smoking to blindness and vision loss. According to the CDC, smokers are two times more likely to get macular degeneration (the most common cause of blindness in American adults) than nonsmokers. They are also two to three times more likely to get cataracts (which cloud your eyes natural lenses) than nonsmokers
3 The rumors are true: Staring directly at the sun can lead to blindness. “It’s almost like lasering your retina,” Madu says. And while some people might get lucky and have their retinal scarring heal on its own, that’s certainly not the case for everyone. But it’s not just the sun that can cause damage. Welding flames also cause eye doctors a lot of stress, as it can cause peeling or flaking off of the lens of the eye. Don’t need to freak out if you’ve glanced over at construction on your block—damage is related to time of exposure, which is one reason why welders need to make sure they wear protective glasses.
4 If you’ve ever watched daytime TV, chances are you’ve heard a quick monologue at the end of medication commercials speed reading through a long list of things that “side effects can include.” In some drugs, those side effects can be blindness. “There are some medications that cause deposits on the retina that can, over a long period of time, impair the vision,” says Madu. Ask your doctor if you’re at risk, and see if you need to switch meds.