The exact role menopause plays in the development of dry eyes is not well understood, but many women over the age of 45 suffer from dry eye symptoms. One explanation for this is that the composition of tears alters as hormonal changes take place at this time of life. It is estimated that 60% of menopausal women experience this symptom of menopause.
In a study (2014) of aging adults published in American Journal of Opthalmology, the prevalence of dry eyes was 17.9% among women and 10.5% among men.
Hormone Replacement Therapy and Dry Eyes
Hormone replacement therapy does not appear to reduce the risk of dry eyes. In fact, HRT may increase a woman’s risk of dry eyes or worsen dry eyes. A study published in 2001, in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), researchers found that post-menopausal women being treated with HRT had a higher prevalence of dry eye syndrome – 69% higher among women receiving estrogen alone and 29% higher among women receiving estrogen plus progesterone or progestin. Also, the longer the duration of HRT, the higher the risk of dry eye syndrome was found amongst the participants of the study.
Dry Eye Symptoms
- Scratchy or gritty feeling
- Tears running down the cheeks. Although more tears are produced, they do not ‘stick’ to the eyes well and the front of the eyes dry out.
- String mucus
- Sensitivity to light
- Problems wearing contact lenses
- Increasingly tired eyes during the day
Tears have 2 components:-
- A watery part which lubricates
- A sticky part which helps water tears ‘stick’ to the front of the eyes
Many medications required by adults over 40 may cause or worsen dry eye problems such as diuretics, antidepressants, beta blockers and antihistamines.
Thyroid autoimmune disease.
Environmental factors such as sun, wind, a dry climate, hot blowing air, high altitude can all have a drying effect on your eyes causing teats to evaporate
Activities requiring visual concentration such as reading, sewing, computers and other devices can also have a drying effect on your eyes
Treatment and Prevention
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Experiencing dry eyes symptoms may be a warning that your body is not detoxifying as it should which results in inflammation. This inflammation connection has led to many healthcare professionals encouraging their patients to add omega-3 supplements or fish oil as part of their treatment plan. A recent study showed that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of dry eye by 20% compared to women with low levels of omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids also assist in tear stimulation.
Over-the Counter Eye Drops
Sometimes referred to as “artificial tears” will provide you with temporary relief, but the problem will likely reoccur.
Eat a sensible well balanced diet and include an omega-3 essential fatty acid supplement plus vitamin E which helps omega-3 to work. Adding oily fish to your diet such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel is an easy way to increase your omega-3 intake. Other foods sources include: kidney beans, tofu, eggs, flaxseed, pumpkin seeds, and soybean and canola oil.
Balance your Hormones
Make changes to your diet and lifestyle with nutritional supplements if needed. HRT comes with a propensity to worsen dry eyes as mentioned above, so you may wish to think about going down the natural menopause relief path. Eating more whole grains, avoiding processed foods and sugar will help to control your insulin levels and keep inflammation under control.
Check your Medications
If you are on prescription drugs, talk to your healthcare professional to see if anything might be causing your dry eyes. It may be possible to change your current medication.
Avoid pollution and irritants
Avoid rubbing your eyes because that can disturb the tear film, remove tears, and transfer irritants to your eye. If you wear make-up it may help if you buy hypoallergenic brands.
Dehydration can deplete the fluid in your eyes. Drink lots of water and herbal teas.
A humidifier will put moisture into the air around you.
Try to blink every few seconds especially when staring at your computer screen or other device or whilst carrying out close work like sewing.
Contact lenses can soak up the fluid in your eyes and they also collect proteins on the surface, which causes irritation to the eyes. Keep lenses clean and have a rest from them.
Sleep will give your eyes the rest they need and will also help reduce the stress that contributes to imbalance in your hormones. Your body repairs its cells and detoxifies while you sleep, which in turn also helps decrease inflammation.
Laser Vision Correction Surgery
If you are thinking about having laser vision correction surgery be sure to tell your Eye Care Professional if you have a dry eye condition as this kind of surgery can worsen dry eyes. Tests can be performed to look at whether your eyes are moist enough for laser eye correction.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration AMD. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 55, in particular, women, who are more at risk.
Are you a safe night time driver?
Eye Benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids. (Retrieved Feb 2016). Retrieved from http://www.allaboutvision.com/nutrition/fatty_acid_1.htm
Impact of dry eye syndrome on vision – related quality of life. American Journal of Ophthalmology (March 2007)
Pick, Marcelle., Ob/Gyn NP. Dry Eyes and Hormone Imbalance. Retrieved on 11 January 2016 from https://www.womentowomen.com/menopause-perimenopause/dry-eyes-and-hormone-imbalance/
Dry, tired or irritated eyes and menopause. Retrieved on 11 January 2016 from http://www.avogel.co.uk/health/menopause/symptoms/dry-tired-irritated-eyes/
Versura, P., Campos, E.C., (May 2005) Menopause and dry eye. A possible relationship. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16019376
Dry eye in the Beaver Dam Offspring Study: prevalence, risk factors, and health-related quality of life. American Journal of Ophthalmology. April 2014.
Hormone replacement therapy and dry eye syndrome. JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association). November 2001.
Dry Eyes After Menopause. Retrieved from http://www.allaboutvision.com/over40/dry-eyes-menopause.html