Women at greater risk for eye problems than men

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MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - When it comes to your protecting health and your healthcare dollars, it is no surprise that prevention is the best medicine.

But, when it comes to eye health, most women don't even realize they are at risk far more often than men.

For Phyllis Weingarten, reporting no change in her vision to doctors at Retinal Consultants of Arizona, is good news. She has age-related macular degeneration. 

She said doctors believe her condition has stabilized.

“He thought I was pretty much at the end of whatever is going on there," Weingarten said.

Dr. Karim Jamal, MD., said the key to preserving some sight is early detection, but it turns out, most women don't even realize they are at far more risk for serious eye problems than men. 

“Nearly 90 percent of women, had no idea there was a disparity between eye health between men and women,” Dr. Jamal said.

A study by preventblindness.org shows women are more likely than men to suffer age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, vision impairment and blindness.

Dr. Jamal said those problems can begin as early as age 40, without warning.

“If one eye is having some damage occur to it, the brain will automatically fill in information from the other eye, so patients will not even notice something is wrong," Dr. Jamal said.

Which is exactly what happened to Weingarten. 

"I was looking through a camera lens, and I couldn't see anything. And I thought it was the lens not me," Weingarten remembers.

Dr. Jamal said that means your only defense is an annual exam.

"I think a good place to start would be age 40, and then depending on what the eye health professional finds, that professional will let them know do they need a yearly exam, or maybe every two years, or every three years,” Dr. Jamal said. “If we can catch any of these disease states early and treat them or monitor them regularly we can prevent a lot of blindness.”

Dr. Jamal said he would like to see all insurance plans include and encourage an annual eye exam, saying it deserves the same attention as other routine wellness checks.

You can reach Retinal Consultants of Arizona at 602-222-2221.