As women age, many experience side effects that are connected to shifts in hormone levels related to the onset of menopause. Many women find that changes in their estrogen levels cause hot flashes and night sweats, irritability, and weight gain. Some women have even reported that they experience dry eyes in addition to these more common symptoms.
While there is a connection between dry eyes and hormonal imbalances, it’s important to note that dry eyes may also be a symptom of various environmental factors. Symptoms like ocular burning, itching, dryness, and blurred vision can be caused by allergies. Dry eyes can be a symptom of serious diseases like diabetes, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and certain autoimmune symptoms. However, staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, living or working in a dry climate, and leaving your contact lenses in for too long can also cause dry eyes, especially in menopausal women. Before you set out to treat your dry eyes as a symptom of menopause, be sure to talk to your doctor about other potential causes.
Understanding the Cause of Your Dry Eyes
A healthy tear film is made up of three parts—a water component, an oily component, and a mucin component. Dry eyes can occur when there is a problem within one of these three components. All About Vision uses the example of dry eye syndrome being caused by a lack of oil in the eye. When this occurs, tears can evaporate too quickly, causing the eyes to become dry and uncomfortable.
During menopause, levels of the sex hormone androgen will decrease. According to Review of Ophthalmology, androgen is an important hormone because it helps to regulate tissues that maintain tear-film stability and prevent evaporation. Additionally, according to All Things Menopause, there is a link between falling levels of estrogen and eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and age related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is an eye disease which causes vision loss in the center of your field of vision. During menopause, the risk of certain eye diseases increases because of hormonal changes that affect the chemical and hormonal makeup of the eye.
Getting your eyes examined annually will help you and your doctors monitor how your eyesight might be getting affected as you progress through menopause.
Side Effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy
While HRT can help to relieve some symptoms of menopause, studies have shown that it can also increase the risk of dry eye syndrome. A study by JAMA Network shows that increased levels of estrogen during HRT can cause adverse effects on the ocular surface. The study shows that the use of HRT is significantly related to symptoms of dry eyes in addition to dry eye syndrome itself.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of dry eyes due to menopause or dry eye syndrome, see your eye doctor. Staying hydrated, eating a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep can help to naturally soothe the effects of dry eyes. For more information on how to get a good night’s sleep during menopause, read up on our post on menopause and night sweats.