Posted by on February 17, 2015 - 10:46am

When we think about sex differences in health, we do not normally think about our eyes.   While some clinical conditions are well known to affect the visual systems of men and women differentially, the sex-dependent effects on the visual system of other clinical conditions may be more subtle or more sporadic and hence less documented. Researchers are now discovering that sex differences exist in a wide range of eye disorders.  In some cases, the differences can be related to the hormone milieu.  In others, they are intertwined with other bodily systems such as neurotransmitter activity and blood flow. 

The visual system is especially amenable to assessment and examination because it has an organ-- the eye , that provides a "window" for interior inspection and study.     All these sex-dependent effects need to be better understood – from the front surface of the eye, to its interior, and to those parts of the visual system behind the eye.

A special issue of Current Eye Research includes a series of 12 review articles, solicited from experts in their respective fields, with most articles focused on different opthalmology subspecialtes. These articles collectively serve as a resource for eye care professionals as well as health care providers in other fields, especially those fields pertaining to women’s health.  In addition to helping improve care, the information in this special issue will provide timely foundations for future research projects reflecting the new NIH mandates that concern the inclusion of sex variables into preclinical studies.While this special issue centers on ophthalmic disorders, it aims to bridge existing specialties and it takes the view that women’s health concerns more than obstetrics and gynecology.

To learn more, visit:  Sex, Eyes, and Vision:   Male/female Distinctions in Opthalmic Disorders


Posted by on May 9, 2011 - 11:07am

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a medical condition in primarily older adults that results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field (the macula) because of damage to the retina in the eye.  AMD makes it difficult or impossible to read or recognize faces, although enough peripheral vision remains to allow other daily activities like eating and cooking.

Typical view for someone with AMD

A new study done by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School collected data including diet from 38,022 women who were not diagnosed with AMD.  After 10 years, they confirmed  235 cases of AMD.  After adjusting for age and treatment, they found that the women who consumed the most omega 3 fatty acid (found in fish) has a 38% lower risk of developing AMD.   In terms of fish intake, they found that consumption of one or more servings of fish per week, when compared to less than one serving per month, was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of AMD.  The full article is published in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

I read another study done on women in Australia that found a similar result and I can't help but wonder if these results would be found in men, too.   My father (as his father) has AMD and he has lived in Florida on the Gulf for more than 40 years.  An avid fisherman, he and my mom  ate fish several times a week but it didn't seem to stop him from getting AMD?  I wonder if family history out trumps omega-3 consumption.    This is another example of why sex-based research (both men and women) is so important!