For the month of November, we want to draw special attention to men’s health. Movember has long been celebrated as the time to grow a moustache all month long with the goal to raise awareness towards men’s health, especially towards prostate and testicular cancer.
Overtime, the initiative has grown to include various facets of men’s health so why not use this opportunity to educate your patients on the importance of men’s eye health?
HOW MEN SEE DIFFERENTLY
Studies have shown that men and women do see the world differently and gender can impact the way people see. For example, men are typically more sensitive to small details and moving objects, whereas women are more perceptive to color changes.[i] For example, Color Vision Deficiency (CVD), also known as color blindness, is much more common for men than it is for women. This is because the most common forms of color blindness are genetic conditions, passed along the X-chromosome. People with an X-chromosome and a Y-chromosome only need their one X to be defective to catch it. People with two X-chromosomes need both to be defective. Most women have two X-chromosomes (XX), and most men have an X-chromosome and a Y-chromosome (XY). It’s much easier for an XY person to be colorblind, and since most males have the XY chromosomes, they are much more likely to have some form of Color Vision Deficiency.[ii]
Men also have thicker retinas and larger M cells than women. The M cells are responsible for tracking the movement of objects. Women on the other hand have more P cells, which are responsible for identifying objects, as well as analyzing textures and colors.[iii] Some theorize that this difference has its roots in the hunter-gatherer days when men did most of the hunting and women did most of the foraging. The ability to spot game at a distance would have been a significant advantage in hunting.[iv]
Some differences between men and women’s vision also occur during the first few months of development. For baby girls, within their first few months of life, their eye contact will increase by over 400%. For baby boys, their eye contact will show significantly less improvement during their first few months. In a study done on 100 babies on the day of their birth, girls were found to prefer looking at a young woman’s faces whereas the boys preferred moving objects.[v]
EYESIGHT AND HORMONES
Although everyone is susceptible of having some form of vision problem, due to their body’s chemistry, men may be susceptible to having unique vision issues. Starting at puberty, hormones cause a flux of changes within the body for boys and girls and these hormonal changes may also affect the way the eyes grow.[vi] In some cases, insufficient or increased hormone levels may be the underlying cause leading to certain eyesight problems.[vii] For men, the male hormone, testosterone, affects the way a male brain processes information taken in by the eye.[viii]
In fact, puberty is one of the first major changes within the body for boys. At this point, males go through a rapid amount of physical growth and their eyes also begin to lengthen in this period of time.[ix] As their eyes lengthen the shape will distort and, in some cases, this can create myopia, also known as nearsightedness. This change in eyesight can last for a short period of time or it can last into adulthood causing a more permanent change to their vision.[x] For younger patients in their teenage years, remind them to schedule an eye exam at least once a year to ensure their eyes are forming properly and that no vision issues are arising from this change in shape.
UNIQUE VISION ISSUES
Men may be susceptible to having unique vision issues due to their gender. General fluctuations and changes in the male body chemistry can adversely affect eyesight at different stages of life. Another factor that may affects a man’s vision is their occupation. Men are more likely to take manual labor jobs such as construction or play dangerous sports. Remind patients to always wear goggles or some form of eye protection in order to protect their eyesight. High stress jobs can also impact their eye health because when the body is stressed, the eyes require more energy in form of nutrients to help manage the stress until a proper balance is restored. If your patients are having troubling dealing with their stress and need help managing it, make sure to check out a previous blog for tips and tricks on how to reduce stress and improve vision.
This month let your patients know that vision and eye health is a spectrum. It affects people differently and sometimes men and women have unique vision issues that should be assessed by an eye care professional. Whether they have 20/20 vision or not, use this month to encourage your male patients to book an appointment for their regular eye exam.