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The connection between Dry Eyes and Menopause


Dry eyes are a common symptom in menopause. In the years during your menopause transition,the body goes through many hormonal changes. After menopause, the body produces fewer reproductive hormones, like estrogen and progesterone. Low estrogen levels can impact the health, and cause uncomfortable symptoms like hot flushes.

When estrogen levels drop, it can affect the quality of our tears. This results in dry eyes, which may make it difficult to see and can even lead to eye irritation or pain if left untreated. 

Menopause is a natural transition in life that all women experience. Symptoms may begin as early as age 40, and last until the end of the reproductive years. One of the fewer-known symptoms with menopause are dry eyes, and problems with your tears can lead to dry eyes. Everyone has a tear film that covers and lubricates their eyes, the tear film is a complex mixture of water, oil, and mucus. Dry eyes occur when you don’t produce enough tears, or when your tears are ineffective, this can cause a gritty feeling like something is in your eye, it can also lead to stinging, burning, blurry vision, and irritation.

The connection between Dry Eyes and Menopause: I-DEW Eye Drops

Risks factors associated with Dry Eyes and Menopause

Dry eyes are a common problem for women during menopause, but they can be managed with a few simple steps. If you are a woman over 45, you are also at risk of developing dry eye problems. The transition to menopause happens gradually over many years, in the years leading up to menopause (called perimenopause), many women begin experiencing symptoms of hormonal changes, like hot flushes and irregular periods.

Dry eye problems stem from one or more of the following:

  •  Decreased tear production
  •  Tears drying up (tear evaporation)
  •  Ineffective tears

You can decrease your risk of dry eyes by avoiding environmental triggers. Things that lead to tear evaporation include:

  • Dry winter air
  • Wind
  • Outdoor activities like skiing, running, and boating
  • Air-conditioning

Treatments for Dry Eyes while Menopausing

Many women with menopausal dry eyes wonder if hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help them. But the answer is uncertain, among doctors, it’s a source of controversy. Some studies have shown that dry eyes improve with HRT, but others have shown that HRT makes dry eye symptoms even more severe, therefore, it continues to be debated.

The most extensive cross-sectional study found that long-term HRT increases the risk and severity of dry eye symptoms. The researchers found that larger doses corresponded to worse symptoms. Also, the longer women took hormone replacements, the more severe their dry eye symptoms became.

Other dry eye treatment options include the following:

Dry eyes can cause pain in the eye, there are some things you can do to help reduce symptoms. Prescription medication and over the counter (OTC) drops are available. If you're having trouble with dry eyes, you must see a doctor who can help determine which option is best for you.

Several over the counter (OTC)

OTC medicines are available to treat chronic dry eye problems. Drops without preservatives are safe to use more than four times per day. When choosing eye drops, remember that they can irritate your eyes, artificial tears will ease your symptoms.

Prescription medications

Prescription medications are effective in treating menopause-related dry eyes. These include immunomodulatory eye drops such as Restasis or cyclosporine, which reduce inflammation on the eye's surface. Alternatively, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroid or steroid eye drops that also reduce inflammation; these may be more effective in severe cases, where swelling around eyelids has restricted essential oils from mixing into the tears. In cases where dry eyes become severe, your doctor may recommend oral antibiotics to reduce swelling around the eyelids and improve tear production.

In addition to taking medication, there are other things you can do at home to stay hydrated and keep your eyes comfortable: avoid caffeine and alcohol, wear sunglasses when outdoors in bright sunlight, use artificial tears regularly (available over the counter) and use humidifiers in cold weather.

Alternative options for Menopausal Dry Eyes

If you're experiencing dry eyes, you're not alone. Dry eyes can be uncomfortable and painful, but they can be expected. Dry eyes are often caused by menopause or some other hormonal change in your body, but plenty of treatments are available to help make your symptoms more manageable.

If you're looking for some alternative treatments to manage your dry eyes, consider these options:

Limit your screen time

Close your eyes for a few minutes, or repeatedly blink for a few seconds. If you work at a computer all day, remember to take regular breaks away from the screen.

Protect your eyes

Sunglasses that wrap around the face can block wind and dry air, these can help when you’re running or biking.

Avoid triggers 

Irritants like smoke and pollen can make your symptoms more severe, as can activities like biking and boating.

Try a humidifier

Keeping the air in your home or office moist can help.

Eat right

A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A can encourage healthy tear production.

Avoid contact lenses

Contact lenses can worsen dry eyes; talk to your doctor about switching to glasses or specially designed contact lenses.

Managing Menopause and Dry Eyes

Methods of managing menopause will depend on the symptoms, as people are differently affected. Managing menopause will help to control hormone levels, this may reduce the severity of symptoms such as those involving the eyes.

Guidelines suggest that it is possible to control menopausal symptoms through diet. For example, women between 51 and 70 should aim to consume six servings of grain products daily. Menopause is a time of change for the body, and one of the most common symptoms experienced is dry eye.

Summary

During menopause, the balance of sex hormones in the body changes, which can cause various symptoms to develop. The type and severity of symptoms differ between individuals. Dry eye is a condition that can result from hormonal changes caused by menopause. It can be extremely uncomfortable, causing symptoms that include burning and itching sensations, and it may cause visual impairment. There are various treatment options for dry eyes, ranging from lubricating eye drops to eye surgery, depending on the severity of the condition. If a person develops symptoms, they should see an eye doctor for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

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