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Menopause And Dry Eyes – Is This You?

Dry eye symptoms go along with other menopausal signs of “drying,” such as sore joints and dry vaginal tissue, but we don’t usually associate this with hormone imbalance.


Dry eye syndrome happens to over 60% of women at menopause but very few of us realise that it is hormone related.

This is a little-known symptom of menopause, according to the Society for Women’s Health Research, with only 16% of us relating to hormone imbalance.

What are the symptoms?

At first you may just get mild symptoms that are only temporary. These are usually a feeling of tired or itchy eyes and sometimes they may look red.

These symptoms are temporary and often solved with just a good night’s sleep.

If it is something in your environment such as air conditioning, or overheating a room with no moisture in the air, or over wearing contact lenses, for instance, then you can easily remedy that.

But if it persists you need to find out why it is happening.

Everyday Symptoms can include:

•  itchiness
•  a scratchy or gritty feeling
•  tears running down the cheeks
•  increasingly tired eyes during the day
•  irritation from smoke, wind, or air movement
•  stringy mucus
•  sensitivity to light
•  blurriness
•  problems wearing contact lenses

These often are helped simply by resting your eyes but more serious symptoms need to be paid attention.

Serious symptoms can include:

•  blurriness
•  extra sensitivity to light
•  irritation from smoke, wind, or air movement
•  itchiness
•  problems with wearing contact lenses
•  a scratchy or gritty feeling
•  stringy mucus in your eye
•  tears that spill out of your eyes and running down your cheeks
•  increasingly tired eyes during the day

Having persistently dry eyes can cause a real problem, such as scarring the cornea, which in turn can cause ulcers. You are also at a higher risk of an eye infection, because any dust or debris in your eyes won’t be washed away, so an essential protective element is lost.

If you are noticing pain in the eye, or a change in your vision, then do seek help from your doctor or optician.

Causes of dry eyes

There are two reasons that dry eyes develop: first that not enough oil is produced by the meibomian glands (in the inner eyelids) or secondly excessive evaporation of the tears. Usually people are affected with low oil and high evaporation.

If you have certain autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes, arthritis, lupus, and Sjögren’s syndrome, you are more prone to develop dry eye. If you have ongoing symptoms of dry eye, please see your doctor to establish the exact cause.

Below are some common reasons that may contribute to your dry eyes:

•  Reading or computer work (you may not blink enough to redistribute eye fluid)
•  Living and/or working in dry environments
•  Contact lenses that absorb eye fluids
•  LASIK eye surgery, which cuts nerves and reduces blinking
•  Allergy drugs, diuretics, beta-blockers, birth control pills, or other drugs
•  Diets poor in essential fatty acids or anti-inflammatory foods
•  Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, lupus, and Sjögren’s syndrome
•  Eyes that have excessive droopiness

How your hormones affect your eyes

You may never have guessed it, but there is a connection between your tears and your hormones. Of course genetics, diet and lifestyle also play their part but studies have associated dry eye with androgen (testosterone) and oestrogen receptors on the cornea and on the meibomian gland.

So pre menopause the greater your testosterone levels then the fewer tears you produce and the greater your oestrogen, the more tears you are likely to shed.

At menopause however things change so if you have high levels of testosterone then you will have more tears and if your oestrogen levels are high then you will shed fewer tears. So it seems that, whatever your age, dry eyes can result from a deficiency or imbalance in oestrogen, progesterone, or testosterone.

If your eyes are dry for a long period of time then you will experience inflammation. The immune response releases inflammatory substances that make your eyes become red, itchy, and swollen.

How to help yourself

One way to help remedy your dry eyes is to restore your hormone balance so check if you are progesterone or oestrogen deficient, and take steps to remedy that. If you think you are low in testosterone then bioidentical progesterone is the body’s natural precursor for this hormone.

If you have persistent signs of low oestrogen such as dry eyes and dry vaginal tissue, then you may need to have a combination cream which has both progesterone and oestrogen,

There is a connection between inflammation and dry eye and a recent study showed that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of dry eye by 20 percent compared to women with low levels of omega–3. Either by supplementation or adding mackerel, tuna, wild salmon, and a good mix of nuts and seeds.

Omega-3 naturally reduces inflammation, helps stimulate tears and increases the oils in our eye secretion. If going for a supplement look for the right balance of omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9 to get maximum benefit.

Interestingly, Omega-3 is also thought to moderate extra production of oestrogen so could also help with oestrogen dominance.

Try eating more whole grains, less sugar, and fewer processed foods to not only control insulin levels but can help keep inflammation under control and progesterone also has anti-inflammatory effect too.

If you are dehydrated, the fluid in your eyes can be depleted, so drink lots of water and if the air in your home or work is very dry then try using is a humidifier.

Eye drops and artificial tears are used by many, but a word of caution. Yes they can help make you more comfortable temporarily, but symptoms will probably come back.

Check that anything you use does not contain preservatives that might further irritate your eyes and your optician can usually recommend something such as Artelac® Rebalance and Artelac® Nighttime Gel or offer other alternatives suitable for your specific needs.

Don’t rub your eyes because that can disturb the tear film, remove tears, and transfer irritants to your eye. Computer, mobile and iPad or tablet use is a real problem for dry eye because we tend to stare too long at the screen without blinking, so consciously make yourself blink several times a minute.

A simple remedy for dry, tired eyes is to take off your glasses and remove contact lenses if you wear them, then sit with your elbows on a table and cover your eyes completely with your hands for at least a minute.

This technique is called ‘palming’ and not only allows your eyes to rest, but has a calming effect too.