Within the past 20 years there has been a surge of research into women’s health issues. This movement was spurred by studies showing that women suffer from significantly more illnesses than men. Relating to the eye, women comprise more than two-thirds of the nation’s cases of blindness or visual impairment! Why does sickness favor women? Many doctors and researchers blame it on hormones. This is especially suspected with eye diseases. However, science still is uncertain how or why hormones influence women’s health.
It is well known that women suffer from dry eye problems much more than men. A very common cause of dry eye is inflammation in the eye tissues, and who do you think suffer more with inflammatory diseases? You guessed it, women. Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia, and thyroid dysfunction are just a few diseases that cause inflammation in the body and result in eye dryness. Are hormones and inflammatory diseases related? The fact that the risk of dry eye (an inflammatory disease) skyrockets at post-menopausal age (marked by extreme hormone level changes in the body) makes me wonder.
Determining for sure if women have more eye illnesses is a difficult task for one main reason, women are more likely to seek medical attention. So do more women get cataract surgery because they are more prone to cataract formation or just because they go to the doctor more often? In my experience, men hold off as long as possible to seek professional help. Similar to not asking for directions until they are lovingly (or not) encouraged by their female counterpart.
Visit a wonderful website created by the Women’s Eye Health Task Force for more information.
EDIT (added March 26, 2008): Health News Digest has a very good article with statistics.