10 Women’s Eye Health Risks Patients Need to Know About


  • April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, making it the perfect time to educate female patients on their eye health.
  • Women are at higher risk for several eye conditions, including dry eye syndrome and age-related macular degeneration.
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause affect women’s eye health and vision, as do lifestyle factors such as cosmetic use.

Recognize Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month this April by raising awareness about the unique eye health risks that women face. From hormonal changes to cosmetics use, women are at higher risk for eye conditions that require preventative care. By educating your patients on these risks and promoting regular in-person or virtual eye exams, you can help them maintain healthy vision throughout their lives.

1. Hormonal Changes

Certain hormonal shifts or hormone-related conditions can affect eye health in women. For example, women who take hormonal birth control or suffer from thyroid conditions can have vision-related issues.

A 2022 study on the risk of ocular disease between genders reported that women who used contraceptive pills for five or more years increased their risk of developing glaucoma. It also found that oral contraceptive use indicated an increased risk for retinal artery and vein occlusion.

According to a 2022 article, 40% of women with thyroid eye disease (TED) experience ocular disease symptoms such as double vision, red eyes, dry eyes, and pain when moving their eyes. Some TED sufferers also have permanent vision loss.

2. Pregnancy-Related Eye Changes

Pregnancy can cause hormonal changes that affect various parts of the eye, leading to dry eyes, blurred or distorted vision, and temporary vision loss. It can also increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes or high blood pressure; both affect eye health.

A 2022 study found that out of the 27,326 electronic health records reviewed, 29.3% of pregnant women suffered from dry eyes, and 16% had conjunctivitis. The study also reported that 16% suffered from ametropia, and 4.6% of records indicated diabetic retinopathy during pregnancy.

3. Menopause-related Eye Changes

During menopause, a decline in estrogen production can lead to several changes in a woman’s eye health, including dry eyes, irritation, and discomfort. These symptoms are primarily caused by decreased tear production and changes to the tear film.

According to a 2022 study, estrogen is involved in the following ocular disorders in menopausal women:

  • Dry eye disease (DED)
  • Corneal disorders
  • Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Central serous chorioretinopathy (CSCR)

4. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive eye disease that affects the macula, a small area near the center of the retina responsible for sharp central vision. Studies suggest that women may be more susceptible to developing the condition due to alternative complement pathway amplification.

A 2022 study found significant sex-based differences in the acquisition of intermediate AMD. A critical aspect of AMD pathogenesis is the complement system. The study found that women had higher levels of protein factor B and plasma regulator factor I, which activated the alternative complement pathway, increasing the risk of macular degeneration.

woman having an eye exam

5. Cataracts

Recent research suggests that women may be at a higher risk of developing cataracts than men due to several factors. One possible explanation is that estrogen levels may influence cataract development.

A 2022 study demonstrated that menopausal women have a higher incidence of cataracts than men. This may be due to the drastic drop in estrogen production. Estrogen has antioxidant properties that can protect against oxidative lens deterioration.

However, it also appears that post-menopausal women taking estrogen-based hormone replacement therapy (HRT) do not experience the same protective benefits of estrogen against cataracts. A 2023 study found that women taking HRT had a significantly higher incidence of cataract development. This may be because exogenous estrogen found in HRT increases C-reactive protein levels, which is associated with the formation of cataracts.

6. Glaucoma

Women are more likely than men to develop a specific type of glaucoma called primary open-angle glaucoma (OAG), which can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss.

A 2022 study suggests that the higher prevalence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in women may account for the increased incidences of OAG compared with men. COPD can dramatically increase intraocular pressure, a known risk factor for glaucoma.

The study also found that women with COPD displayed higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines than men in the study. Cytokines cause inflammation and cellular degeneration that may contribute to glaucoma development.

7. Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes that can cause damage to the blood vessels in the retina and lead to vision loss.

A 2020 study found that women with type II diabetes were more likely to experience diabetic retinopathy (DR) than men. However, the study also found that only post-menopausal women over 60 had a higher DR prevalence than men, suggesting that hormonal fluctuations and a decrease in estrogen may play a role in the development of the condition.

8. Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is a common condition where the eyes do not produce enough tears, leading to discomfort and vision problems. Studies have shown that hormonal, environmental, and lifestyle factors make women more susceptible to dry eye syndrome.

Hormonal changes may play a role, as women are more likely to experience dry eyes during pregnancy, menopause, and while using contraceptives. A 2022 study found that women of childbearing age who regularly took contraceptives were more likely to develop dry eye syndrome than those who only used contraceptives occasionally.

The contraceptives included combined oral methods, medroxyprogesterone injections, etonogestrel vaginal rings, and intrauterine levonorgestrel.

9. Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs, and women are four times more likely than men to develop autoimmune conditions.

Autoimmune diseases, such as Sjögren’s syndrome and Graves’ disease, are associated with a range of eye problems and disproportionately affect women.

Sjögren’s syndrome can cause dry eyes and mouth. Women are nine times more likely to develop this condition than men. A 2022 study suggests SS may result from environmental factors like viral infections, epithelial cell dysregulation, and persistent B-cell activation.

Graves’ disease affects the thyroid gland and can cause many eye problems, including bulging eyes, double vision, and dry eyes. Women are five to six times more likely than men to develop Graves’ disease.

10. Cosmetic-related Problems

Women are more likely to use eye cosmetics like mascara and eyeliner than men, with around 87.5% of women using makeup products regularly. However, improper applications or frequent use of eye makeup may contribute to ocular damage and diseases like blepharitis, conjunctivitis, and dry eye disease.

A 2021 study stated that eye makeup ingredients can disrupt the ocular surface’s lipid layer and reduce the quality and quantity of tear film, contributing to dry eye disease. Regular in-person or virtual eye exams can help women maintain their eye health and discuss concerns related to makeup use.

woman speaking with an eye doctor

Keep Your Patients Informed With RevolutionEHR

Early detection and treatment are crucial for managing eye conditions. You can help your female patients get the treatment they need by using RevolutionEHR’s patient messaging feature to send automated or personalized reminders via email, text message, or phone. This helps reduce no-shows and ensures your patients receive timely care.

Create a new vision for your optometry practice and find the freedom to focus on your patients with RevolutionEHR.

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