Posted on 22 Comments

More Women Than Men Have Vision Loss

Gender Differences On Eye Health

Audrey & Sophie (her guide dog)
Audrey & Sophie

Fellow VisionAware Peer Advisor and Woman On The Move, Audrey Demmitt wrote the following previously published article.  

We all know men are from Mars and women Venus. But you may be surprised to learn there are gender differences when it comes to eye health and vision loss. As a  nurse and a woman with a visual impairment, I was surprised to learn there are more women than men who are blind or visually impaired. I have a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa and have been legally blind since 1994. Though this condition is genetic and untreatable, there are many steps I take to preserve and protect my remaining vision. And I want to urge other women to take good care of their eyes so they will last a lifetime.

Women’s Eye Health Task Force reports that nearly two-thirds of all visually impaired and blind people in the world are women. More women than men suffer from eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Research has shown there are gender-specific symptoms, conditions and risks associated with vision loss.

Prevent Blindness America or PBA, reports similar figures for the U.S.; 66 percent of people who are blind or visually impaired are women. Women have more risk factors and thus, higher rates of vision loss than men. To make matters worse, a recent survey done by PBA revealed that only 9 percent of women realize these troubling facts. Many blinding eye diseases can be treated to prevent blindness and almost all eye injuries can be prevented. Therefore, women need to know what their risks are and learn ways to preserve their vision. PBA launched a new program called See Jane See: Women’s Healthy Eyes Now to educate women on their unique eye health needs.

Women are more likely to lose their vision for several reasons

  1. They live longer than men. Many eye diseases are age-related. As women live longer than men, they are more likely to be affected by conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. The rates of these diseases are increasing as the population ages, especially among women.
  2. Some eye diseases are intrinsically more prevalent among women. For instance, dry eye syndrome which is believed to be linked to hormones is two to three times more common in women than men. Hormonal changes across the lifespan of a woman, from pregnancy to post-menopause, can influence vision changes. Women also have higher rates of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. These conditions often have serious effects on the eyes, causing vision loss.
  3. Social and economic factors can limit the frequency, quality, and availability of health care for women. Since blindness and vision impairment can be prevented through early detection and treatment in some eye conditions, access to proper eye health care is believed to influence the greater rates of vision loss among women.
  4. There are behavioral and environmental factors that can increase the risk of eye problems, though they are not specific to women. Among them are poor nutrition and obesity which can cause diabetes and subsequent diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of vision loss. Smoking is also a proven risk factor for eye diseases, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

Women can help themselves and their families to lower the risks of vision loss by educating themselves on eye health and following these guidelines:

  1. Get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at age 40 and continue these exams every two years. If you have a family history of an eye condition or have been diagnosed with an eye disease, follow the recommended schedule of your eye doctor. If you experience any vision changes, eye pain, signs of infection, or eye injuries, see an eye doctor right away.
  2. Quit smoking! Smoking affects many organs in the body and the damage is irreparable. Heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and other vascular problems have long been known as good reasons to quit smoking. Now you have another: blindness. Talk to your doctor about ways to “kick the habit.”
  3. Maintain a healthy body weight. Start a weight loss or management plan to accomplish this goal. A healthy body weight lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes which can all cause loss of vision. Be sure to include daily activity in your plan as this has many health benefits that can protect your vision. Begin with 30 minutes of walking at least three times a week.
  4. Eat an eye-healthy diet, rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. Foods containing carotenoids and anti-oxidants such as green leafy vegetables, and fruits high in vitamin C, like oranges, strawberries, and melons, may protect eye health. Also include foods rich in omega 3s such as nuts, salmon and egg yolks in your diet. There are supplements available to maintain eye health which contains these micro-nutrients, but it is best to eat fresh, whole foods in a variety of colors to get the best nutrition from your diet.
  5. Protect your eyes from harmful sun rays. Invest in good quality sunglasses that have full UV-a and UV-b protection. In beach and snow conditions, darker tints are needed to filter out the harmful rays. Wear ball caps or hats with a wide brim for additional protection from scattered rays that reflect off of surfaces. Avoid prolonged periods in the sun without eye protection.
  6. Use cosmetics and contact lenses safely. Wash hands and face thoroughly before applying contacts and cosmetics. Keep contact cases, make-up brushes and applicators clean. Throw away eyeshadows, eyeliners, and mascaras after three months. They expire and can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Do not share makeup. Follow the recommended wearing and cleansing schedules for your type of contacts.
  7. Learn proper eye safety and first aid for home, work, and recreational environments. Wear protective eye gear such as goggles when using chemicals, tools, and machinery. It is important to protect the eyes from burns, cuts, and foreign objects that can damage the corneas and other structures of the eye.

Women live very busy lives juggling the demands of jobs, children, their households, and aging parents. We often play the caregiver role, but sometimes neglect our own self-care. You may take your child for eye screenings or an aging parent to the eye doctor, but when did you last have an eye exam yourself? The power to prevent vision loss is in your hands. Awareness and knowledge are the tools you need. Your sight is precious-save it! Treat yourself to an eye exam today.

Learn more at:

Posted on 22 Comments

A Lil’ Inspiration #13 Audrey

Life Is In Session

Facebook Audrey 1.17.16F.E.A.R. – Do you Face Everything And Run? Or Face Everything And Rise? Depending on your viewpoint you can give too much power to fear. Fear can motivate or repress and your response is a matter of choice.

Today’s quote by Audrey Demmitt, who has previously been featured here, is one of my faves because it reminds me that regardless of my circumstances, as long as I’m alive I can reach for, and beyond the stars.

On grappling with fear:

  • The first step to Face Everything And Rise is doing an honest self assessment. Like following a map to a specific destination, unless you know yourself; your definition of success, attitudes, beliefs, passions, likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses, wants and needs, you will get lost.
  • Once you’ve completed your self-assessment the next step is to set short and long-term goals. Goals should always be written, periodically reviewed, revised and once they are met, new ones should be set. It’s a good habit to revisit short-term goals once every 6 weeks, and long-term goals once each quarter.

I wish you all a rich and meaningful life…it is possible even with vision loss! Life is in-session”…live it!” ~Audrey Demmitt  www.seeingpossibilities.com

  • The third and final step is to stay the course. If you become derailed, and you will, get back on track and keep pursuing your dreams. Do not let anyone, or killjoys as I like to refer them, tell you that you cannot succeed. There really is no greater satisfaction than proving the naysayers wrong.

When it gets down to it the choice is up to you. You decide your path to success.

Image Description: Quoted text is white against a black background next to a scenic image of two hot air balloons floating in an early morning sunrise over a tapestry of low-lying clouds and lush greenery.

Don’t forget to “like” my Facebook page in the sidebar and connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Have a wonderful Day!! ~Steph

 

Posted on 4 Comments

More Women Than Men Have Vision Loss

April Is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month

Audrey & Sophie (her guide dog)
Audrey & Sophie

Fellow VisionAware Peer Advisor, Audrey Demmitt wrote the following previously published article.

We all know men are from Mars and women Venus. But you may be surprised to learn there are gender differences when it comes to eye health and vision loss. As a  nurse and a woman with a visual impairment, I was surprised to learn there are more women than men who are blind or visually impaired. I have a degenerative eye disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa and have been legally blind since 1994. Though this condition is genetic and untreatable, there are many steps I take to preserve and protect my remaining vision. And I want to urge other women to take good care of their eyes so they will last a lifetime.

Women’s Eye Health Task Force reports that nearly two-thirds of all visually impaired and blind people in the world are women. More women than men suffer from eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Research has shown there are gender-specific symptoms, conditions, and risks associated with vision loss.

Prevent Blindness America or PBA, reports similar figures for the U.S.; 66 percent of people who are blind or visually impaired are women. Women have more risk factors and thus, higher rates of vision loss than men. To make matters worse, a recent survey done by PBA revealed that only 9 percent of women realize these troubling facts. Many blinding eye diseases can be treated to prevent blindness and almost all eye injuries can be prevented. Therefore, women need to know what their risks are and learn ways to preserve their vision. PBA launched a new program called See Jane See: Women’s Healthy Eyes Now to educate women on their unique eye health needs.

Women are more likely to lose their vision for several reasons.

  1. They live longer than men. Many eye diseases are age-related. As women live longer than men, they are more likely to be affected by conditions such as cataracts, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. The rates of these diseases are increasing as the population ages, especially among women.
  2. Some eye diseases are intrinsically more prevalent among women. For instance, dry eye syndrome which is believed to be linked to hormones is two to three times more common in women than men. Hormonal changes across the lifespan of a woman, from pregnancy to post-menopause, can influence vision changes. Women also have higher rates of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. These conditions often have serious effects on the eyes, causing vision loss.
  3. Social and economic factors can limit the frequency, quality, and availability of health care for women. Since blindness and vision impairment can be prevented through early detection and treatment in some eye conditions, access to proper eye health care is believed to influence the greater rates of vision loss among women.
  4. There are behavioral and environmental factors that can increase the risk of eye problems, though they are not specific to women. Among them are poor nutrition and obesity which can cause diabetes and subsequent diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of vision loss. Smoking is also a proven risk factor for eye diseases, including cataracts and macular degeneration.

Women can help themselves and their families to lower the risks of vision loss by educating themselves on eye health and following these guidelines:

  1. Get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at age 40 and continue these exams every two years. If you have a family history of an eye condition or have been diagnosed with an eye disease, follow the recommended schedule of your eye doctor. If you experience any vision changes, eye pain, signs of infection, or eye injuries, see an eye doctor right away.
  2. Quit smoking! Smoking affects many organs in the body and the damage is irreparable. Heart disease, lung cancer, stroke and other vascular problems have long been known as good reasons to quit smoking. Now you have another: blindness. Talk to your doctor about ways to “kick the habit.”
  3. Maintain a healthy body weight. Start a weight loss or management plan to accomplish this goal. A healthy body weight lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes which can all cause loss of vision. Be sure to include daily activity in your plan as this has many health benefits that can protect your vision. Begin with 30 minutes of walking at least three times a week.
  4. Eat an eye-healthy diet, rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. Foods containing carotenoids and anti-oxidants such as green leafy vegetables, and fruits high in vitamin C, like oranges, strawberries, and melons, may protect eye health. Also include foods rich in omega 3s such as nuts, salmon and egg yolks in your diet. There are supplements available to maintain eye health which contains these micro-nutrients, but it is best to eat fresh, whole foods in a variety of colors to get the best nutrition from your diet.
  5. Protect your eyes from harmful sun rays. Invest in good quality sunglasses that have full UV-a and UV-b protection. In beach and snow conditions, darker tints are needed to filter out the harmful rays. Wear ball caps or hats with a wide brim for additional protection from scattered rays that reflect off of surfaces. Avoid prolonged periods in the sun without eye protection.
  6. Use cosmetics and contact lenses safely. Wash hands and face thoroughly before applying contacts and cosmetics. Keep contact cases, make-up brushes and applicators clean. Throw away eyeshadows, eyeliners, and mascaras after three months. They expire and can become a breeding ground for bacteria. Do not share makeup. Follow the recommended wearing and cleansing schedules for your type of contacts.
  7. Learn proper eye safety and first aid for home, work, and recreational environments. Wear protective eye gear such as goggles when using chemicals, tools, and machinery. It is important to protect the eyes from burns, cuts, and foreign objects that can damage the corneas and other structures of the eye.

Women live very busy lives juggling the demands of jobs, children, their households, and aging parents. We often play the caregiver role, but sometimes neglect our own self-care. You may take your child for eye screenings or an aging parent to the eye doctor, but when did you last have an eye exam yourself? The power to prevent vision loss is in your hands. Awareness and knowledge are the tools you need. Your sight is precious-save it! Treat yourself to an eye exam today.

Learn more at:

Posted on 6 Comments

WOTM 23 Featuring Audrey Demmitt

Endless Possibilities

Audrey & Sophie (her guide dog)
Audrey & Sophie

I find it so exhilarating talking to people who are making a difference by sharing their stories of hope and inspiration. If you’ve lived long enough you know life is not only uncertain it’s sometimes challenging to endure some of the difficulties that come our way.

So it wasn’t surprising I would be captivated by the blog-Seeing Possibilities, Navigating through life with Vision Loss. The title reminded me that in life regardless of our circumstances, there are endless possibilities at our disposal. However, we have to take the first step by making the choice to overcome.

At age 25 Audrey Demmitt, the Support Group Advisor for the American Foundation for the Blind and a Peer Advisor for VisionAware.org, received her diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) though she lived with the disease years before the diagnosis was made. RP is a genetic condition that causes retinal degeneration and eventual vision loss.

The diagnosis of RP didn’t stop Audrey from graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in nursing. She went on to practice as a registered nurse with a visual impairment for 29 years before retiring last year.

“Though my retirement was premature due to my vision loss, I am enjoying it!” ~Audrey

A number of years ago due to her declining vision Audrey experienced a major impact on her life when she lost her driver’s license at age 30. As she steadily continued to lose vision Audrey realized the critical need to get help. It became increasingly difficult moving about safely, reading normal print, using the computer, doing activities of daily living, and coping emotionally.

It was through vision rehabilitation that Audrey learned about assistive technologies, orientation, and mobility skills, and adapted ways to cook, clean and do other household activities. She learned how to use a white cane to enable her to safely navigate and eventually got her first guide dog, Sophie in 2011.

“My visual acuity is about 20/300 and my field of view is 6-10 degrees now. Recently, I was diagnosed with cataracts. I have been legally blind since 1994.” ~Audrey

Audrey, her husband Kevin, and two dogs Lucy (a pug) and Sophie (a golden retriever guide dog) reside south of Atlanta, Georgia. The mother and father of 3 very successful adult children, and a beautiful daughter-in-law, when speaking of her children Audrey says: “they are, by far, my greatest accomplishment in life and my pride and joy!”

Raising a family while having a successful career, leading a support group for the visually impaired in her local community, speaking to groups on vision loss, living with a disability, and using a guide dog are just a few of the things Audrey has and still is achieving. Since retiring she is exploring lots of new interests and learning to adapt them to low vision. She is enjoying getting “healthier”, exercising, learning yoga, tandem bike riding with her husband etc. and she loves the freedom to go on trips and spending time with family and friends.

I am just another gal trying to figure out this “life with low vision thing! ~Audrey

A well-rounded person, Audrey loves to read, travel, cook and try new and exotic foods. She loves words, word games, writing and has even dabbled in professional and creative writing. Recently her latest crafty passion is making rag rugs. She enjoys the great outdoors and if you check out her blog at www.seeingpossibilities.com she talks about her latest hiking adventure in Pennsylvania.

Finally, Audrey likes sharing her story in the hopes of providing encouragement and empowering others who are experiencing the loss of vision. Her goal is to educate and build awareness around the issues the visually impaired face on a daily basis.

Thank you, Audrey, for allowing me the pleasure of writing about you. You are a dynamo and seeing everything you’ve done has been encouraging to me.

“I wish you all a rich and meaningful life…it is possible even with vision loss! Life is “in-session”…live it!” ~Audrey Demmitt