It is an unfortunate fact that women are more likely than men to have eye-related problems. Two-thirds of blindness and visual impairment worldwide occur in women, a problem that often goes untreated and unaddressed. A study by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) revealed that only 9% of women in the U.S. realize this.
In an effort to educate women about the steps that they can take today to help preserve vision in the future, April has been designated as Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month. Your vision is one of the most important things in life. Vision loss can make everyday tasks more difficult and impede your work.
As the U.S. population ages, women are more likely to have eye disease than men. Another study by PBA found that women make up the majority of the 4.4 million Americans aged 40 and older who are visually impaired or blind. Glaucoma, cataracts, refractive errors and age-related macular degeneration are more likely to effect women, partially due to women having a longer average life-span than men.
The issue of gender disparity in blindness takes a sharper turn in low-income countries, where the gap in treatments widens considerably. In some cases, women receive eye care at half the rate as men. According to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), barriers which prevent all people from receiving eye care in low-income countries impact women more severely than men.
These women often have less financial resources to pay for the surgeries they need. They have less options for travel than men and are unable to travel to the nearest eye care facility. Female literacy is also often much lower then male, so many women are unable to receive the information that treatment is available.
Periodic eye exams are the best way to ensure that vision is healthy. Unfortunately, this is hardly a reality for individuals in developing countries, where, according to World Health Organization (WHO), 90% of visually impaired people live. These individuals rarely have access to regular, professional eye care. That’s why Combat Blindness International (CBI) is working to bring eye care to these areas by building eye centers.
Our Certified Ophthalmic Personnel (COP) Program is addressing another large problem in providing eye care: lack of qualified personnel. The special thing about this program is the students are all young women from rural areas around New Delhi, India. This holistic program is important because on top of worldwide personnel shortage, some women are unable to receive medical attention from a male eye care professionals for cultural reasons, which further contributes to the disparity in eye health for women. Not only does the program help to train the students to perform many of the same functions as an ophthalmologist, it also helps to increase the number of patients that can be reached, such as women who previously were incapable of receiving access to eye care.