If you think menopause is just about night sweats, hot flashes, and mood swings, then you are mistaken. There are more symptoms than you can imagine. So, do your eyes burn and itch quite often? Do you even spot redness in your eyes? Are you having trouble while driving at night? All these point to the fact that you could have dry eyes.
Now, are you a female and in your mid-40s? Are you going through a troublesome time of late managing irregular periods, hot flashes, sleep problems, etc.? You could connect the missing link and conclude all of these, including dry eyes, result from the menopause transition phase, which has possibly set in.
So, let’s read on to know the causes of dry eyes in menopause and learn how to eliminate them.
Why Do Women Have Dry Eyes During Menopause?
Estrogen and progesterone hormones control many of your body functions, and the eyes aren’t an exception. When there is an alteration or reduction in their levels, the oil glands in the eyes get affected, resulting in dryness. Estrogen helps in lessening stiffness in the cornea and increases its elasticity. Reduced estrogen level impacts the light traveling into your eyes, leading to dry eyes. It could even affect vision, making things appear blurred.
Females undergo changes in their vision not just in menopause but also in puberty and pregnancy when there are fluctuations in the hormonal levels.
Dry eyes are familiar in old age due to decreased tear production. Anyone above 50 is at the risk of suffering from this condition. However, older women are more susceptible than their male counterparts. Besides the low estrogen levels, as mentioned already, new research also highlights the role of androgens in dry eyes.
Both the sexes have the androgen hormone. However, males produce more of it than their female counterparts. When a woman enters the menopause phase, her estrogen hormones lower to a considerable extent, and the androgens also follow suit. Like estrogen, androgen is also pivotal in increasing tear secretion and improving dry eye symptoms. So, low androgen levels are another reason behind dry eyes in women.
An Indian study was conducted on 200 women in the postmenopausal phase. From the findings obtained from this study, it was concluded that more than 52% of postmenopausal women suffered from dry eye.
So, to conclude the causes of dry eyes, it is essential to mention that an alteration or reduction in the reproductive hormones – estrogen and progesterone in particular leads to the following changes in the eyes:
- The tears evaporate quickly
- The glands producing oil make less oil
- The eye isn’t well-lubricated by the tears
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eyes?
When one has dry eyes, they will probably experience some common symptoms, as mentioned below: The first and most important sign is a feeling of dryness in the eyes. There are other symptoms, too, as follows:
- A burning sensation in the eyes
- Redness in the eyes
- Intense pain
- Teary or watery eyes
- Mucus secretion that makes the eye feel shut when one tries to wake up from sleep
- Sensitivity to light
- A feeling of laziness or tiredness in the eyes
- A sensation that there’s something stuck in the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Discomfort in the eyes
Those wearing contact lenses will have a lot of difficulty when they get affected due to dry eyes. The contact lens could cause their eyes to appear even drier because its thin layer prevents your eyes from getting an adequate supply of oxygen. When there is inappropriate oxygen flow, your eye will struggle even more to develop tears naturally.
What Are the Ways to Treat and Minimize Dry Eyes? 3 Probable Solutions
When you have dry eyes, it isn’t a good feeling; if this condition is prolonged, it will significantly hamper your way of life. So, here are some ways to treat and even manage dry eyes. Let’s take a look:
1. Opting for Over-the-counter Medications
When you are troubled with dry eyes, you should never try any remedies at home. The best and safest option is to consult a doctor who will suggest appropriate treatment methods according to the severity of your condition. In most cases, the doctor will prescribe drops that lubricate the eyes, commonly available in majority drug stores.
Artificial tears will mostly suffice when it comes to easing dry eye symptoms. However, you should be cautious while purchasing over-the-counter eye drops. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Always choose drops sans preservatives, as they are safe for your eyes, and you can use them at least four times a day. Drops containing preservatives aren’t safe for your eyes, and overuse could lead to irritation.
- Sometimes, eye gels and ointments are also prescribed for moderate or severe dry eye. They produce long-lasting effects but may sometimes lead to clouded vision since they have a thicker consistency than eye drops.
- Redness is one of the symptoms of dry eyes. Some drops work towards minimizing redness. But when used frequently, it could irritate the eyes, making them redder.
2. Prescription Medications
When the OTC treatments don’t work, your doctor may further advise prescription medications to treat dry eyes.
- Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications. These include immunomodulatory eye drops, which lessen eye surface inflammation and increase tear production in dry-eyed individuals.
- Swelling and inflammation in the area surrounding the eyelid are common in dry eyes. So, to reduce this, the doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics because of their anti-inflammatory properties. Swelling hinders the tear-production process, also inhibiting the mixing of essential oils.
- When the symptoms of dry eyes vary from moderate to severe, artificial tears may not work. Under such circumstances, the doctor may opt for an eye insert as tiny as a rice grain. It should be placed in between the lower eyelid and eyeball. As the insert begins to dissolve, it will release a lubricant and help to keep your eyes moist.
- Your doctor might even prescribe drugs that stimulate tear production. You could avail them as drops, gels, or pills.
- In the case of individuals with severe symptoms of dry eyes, most treatment methods may not work. The only alternative is to make drops with their blood. Your blood sample will be processed. Once the red blood cells are removed, they will be mixed with saline solution to prepare drops for your eyes. Since they are made from blood, these drops replicate real tears and are more effective for those with severe dry eyes.
- The doctor could even suggest scleral contact lenses, as they are better than the regular ones. These lenses help lessen some dry eye symptoms like itchiness and redness. They even appear bigger and avoid direct contact with the cornea, minimizing the chances of irritation.
When all the nonsurgical treatments have been exhausted, and nothing has worked out well, surgery might be needed for dry eyes.
3. Home Remedies and Alternative Treatments
Besides the medicine treatments, there are several things that you need to do to ensure that your dry eyes do not aggravate. Let’s take a look:
- If you need to work on the computer throughout the day, remember to take breaks in between. Give your eyes some rest in between. Shut your eyes in intervals, and even blink them repeatedly for some seconds. This helps to lubricate your eyes and protect them from irritants and bright light.
- Wear sunglasses outdoors, not just in sunny weather, but even when it is cloudy. In this way, you can protect your eyes from getting dried out by the wind.
- Apply warm compresses to your eyes whenever you can. It helps to keep your eyes moist, produce tears, and lessens swelling.
- When your surrounding air has more moisture, it helps the tears evaporate slower and keeps your eyes comfortable.
- Maintain a healthy diet to prevent dry eye problems in the future. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids help prevent your eyelids from inflammation and encourage tear production.
There are mixed opinions about hormone therapy for dry eyes. As per some studies, HRT worsens the symptoms of menopause. However, some studies show the effectiveness of HRT in lessening the severity of dry eyes.
The result of a study suggests that women using only estrogen for dry eyes will not benefit much. Instead, those opting for a combination of both hormones (estrogen and progesterone) will benefit positively.
Many believe practicing relaxation techniques and yoga will improve vision and treat dry eye symptoms. However, there hasn’t been any evidence to validate the same. Yet, eye yoga seems relaxing and calming to many.
Chronic dry eyes could result in several complications. It makes you more prone to eye infections. If you have severe symptoms, your eye surface could undergo abrasion and inflammation, putting you at risk of vision problems and corneal ulcers.
The acupuncture technique has been proven effective in managing several menopausal symptoms. Studies have shown it to be beneficial for managing dry eyes. In one finding conducted in 2019, it was deduced that those undergoing a six-month acupuncture treatment experienced an improvement in dry eyes.
Menopause means a zillions of changes in your body. Besides the hot flashes and sleep problems, if you have dry eye as an add-on, it will surely add to your discomfort. Ensure to address the problem as soon as possible for a quick resolution. Also, take good care of your eyes and follow proper hygiene to keep eye infections at bay.