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Age-Related Eye Disease on the Increase

Women face twice the risk of losing sight that men do during senior years

SATURDAY, April 5 (HealthDay News) -- Twice as many women as men in the United States are diagnosed with vision-threatening eye disease every year, but the numbers are increasing for both genders as the baby boomer generation enters its golden years, a newly updated report shows.

The study, from the Prevent Blindness America and the government-backed National Eye Institute, found that of more than 3.6 million Americans aged 40 and older who suffer from visual impairment, including blindness, 2.3 million are women. Potentially blinding diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy strike women in some cases almost twice as much as men.

"Some may be under the impression that losing vision is just a simple part of the aging process, but these numbers include many women in their 40s," Daniel D. Garrett, senior vice president of Prevent Blindness America, said in a prepared statement. "It's never too early to start caring for our eyes, and we strongly encourage women to make eye health a priority for themselves and their families today."

The report shows age-related eye disease has risen for both sexes, but especially among women, who represent more than 1.3 million of the more than 2 million Americans aged 50 and older that have age-related macular degeneration.

And, approximately 6 million women and 3 million men have moderate to severe symptoms of dry eye syndrome, a condition caused when not enough natural tears are produced, according to the National Women's Health Resource Center. Postmenopausal and pregnant women are most at risk because of hormonal fluctuations, and without proper lubrication, their corneas can become damaged.

"Fortunately, there is a simple way for women to protect their vision: Get regular eye care," Garrett said.

More information

Prevent Blindness America has more about eye disease.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: Prevent Blindness America, news release, March 2008

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