Navigating Dry Eyes During Menopause: Causes and Solutions

Last updated 05.02.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 7 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


Are you going through menopause and finding yourself blinking more than usual or feeling a burning sensation in your eyes and reaching for eye drops frequently? You’re not alone!

Dry eye is a common complaint during the menopausal transition. As someone who’s also experienced dry eye during menopause, I know how frustrating and uncomfortable it is and how it disrupts daily activities.

However, let me tell you, there are ways to manage it. In this blog post, I will discuss the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for dry eye in detail. To discover helpful tips, continue reading!

Symptoms of Dry Eye

Dry eye, a condition that can significantly impact the comfort and function of your eyes, is a common occurrence during menopause. If you’re experiencing it, you’re not alone. Here are some of the common symptoms:

  • Burning or Stinging: People suffering from dry eye frequently complain of a burning or stinging feeling behind the eyelids, like there’s soap in their eyes. The sensation is constant or intermittent.
  • Scratchy Feeling: Your eyes can also feel scratchy as if sand or other tiny particles are trapped under your eyelids. Blinking may not provide relief, and rubbing your eyes can actually worsen the situation.
  • Foreign Body Sensation: When you have dry eye, it might feel like something is stuck in your eye. This constant feeling can be distracting and uncomfortable.
  • Blurred Vision: Dry eyes cause fluctuations in vision. This might result in blurred or hazy vision, especially if you’re tired, focus on screens for prolonged periods, or are in dry environments. You can try to blink frequently for temporary relief.
  • Eye Redness: The problem can irritate the surface of your eye, leading to redness and inflammation. This can make your eyes appear bloodshot, and it is discomforting.
  • Light Sensitivity: Due to dry eye, your eyes can become more sensitive to bright light, including sunlight, fluorescent light, and computer screens. This can lead to squinting, discomfort, and headaches.
  • Watery Eyes: People with dry eyes experience excessive tearing. It happens when the tear production reduces or tears evaporate too quickly.
  • Mucus Discharge: Dry eyes also cause the production of thicker mucus strands around eyelashes or in the corners of your eyes. This can irritate the eye or make it feel sticky.
  • Eye Fatigue: Due to dry eye, you might experience eye fatigue or strain. This impacts concentration and makes it difficult to focus on tasks.

The severity and specific combination of symptoms can vary from person to person. Some menopausal women might experience mild discomfort, whereas others might find their daily activities significantly disrupted. Consult your eye doctor if you’re severely experiencing any of these symptoms.

Causes of Dry Eye in Menopause

The dramatic hormonal changes that occur during menopause are a significant contributing factor to dry eye in women. Let me explain the specific hormonal influences and how they cause dry eyes menopause.

The Role of Estrogen and Androgens

Estrogen was said to play a key role in tear production. While research is ongoing, the exact mechanism isn’t fully understood. Some studies suggest that estrogen may stimulate the lacrimal glands, which are responsible for producing the watery components of tears. During menopause, the estrogen levels in women decline, which could potentially lead to decreased tear production.

Recent research also suggests that a specific androgen called dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) plays a crucial role in maintaining tear function. Androgens help regulate the meibomian glands in the eyelids, which produce the oily layer of the tear film. The oily layer helps to reduce tear evaporation and keeps the eyes lubricated. When androgens decrease during menopause, it leads to the dysfunction of these glands, which results in the production of poor-quality tears that evaporate too quickly.

Effect of Decreased Hormone Levels

Due to the decline in estrogen and androgen levels during menopause, the balance needed for healthy tear production and quality is disrupted. As the lacrimal glands produce less tears, there might not be enough tears to keep the eyes lubricated.

In addition, the meibomian glands produce an insufficient oily layer, which causes the tears to evaporate too quickly. Both the decreased tear quantity and poor quality are the reasons for unstable tear film, which leads to discomfort, irritation, and dryness in the eyes.

Additional Contributing Factors

Hormonal change during menopause is the major cause of dry eyes in women. However, other factors, such as aging, medications, environmental conditions, and health issues, can also contribute to the condition.

Treatment Options for Dry Eye

Dry eye is uncomfortable but can be effectively managed with some approaches. Let’s look at the available treatment options:

Artificial Tears

Artificial tears are the preferred treatment option for dry eyes. They are eye drops, ointments, or gels used to lubricate your dry eye. There are a few types of artificial tears:

  • Lubricating Drops: These drops add moisture to the eye, provide immediate relief, and are commonly used throughout the day.
  • Ointments: These are thicker lubricants often used at night to prevent dryness while sleeping. They provide long-lasting relief.
  • Gels: Gels also provide lubrication and last longer than drops.

Women suffering from dry eye due to menopause must consult their doctor before using artificial tears. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding the frequency of application. Maintaining hygiene is necessary, so wash your hands before and after instilling drops in your eyes. Avoid touching the tip of the dropper to your eye to prevent contamination.

Lid Hygiene

Maintaining eyelid hygiene is essential to protect your eyes from any serious condition. Menopausal women experiencing dry eye can start by keeping the eye glands healthy, as this is essential for optimal tear function.

Apply warm compresses to your eyelids for 10-15 minutes, as this helps to loosen and unclog blocked meibomian glands, which eventually leads to effective oil production.

To remove debris and bacteria, gently clean your eyelids with a doctor-recommended lid scrub.

Prescription Medications

Sometimes, artificial tears and lid hygiene do not help, so doctors might prescribe medications to treat the condition. Medications like cyclosporine (Restasis) and lifitegrast (Xiidra) help to increase tear production. However, the medicines might take weeks or months to show their full effect.

If inflammation is also an issue, the doctors may prescribe medication for it. Women should be aware that medications have potential side effects, so first discuss with your doctor thoroughly.

Lifestyle Modifications

Certain lifestyle changes can also help to improve dry eye conditions. Reduce your screen time, take frequent breaks, and practice deliberate blinking. Dry air can make your dry eye situation worse, so use a humidifier and avoid blowing air directly on your eyes.

Menopausal women should include omega-3 fatty acids in their diet, such as fatty fish or supplements. Also, wear sunglasses outside to protect your eyes from dust and UV rays.

FAQs

How do you maintain eyelid hygiene?

Eyelid hygiene is important to keep eyes clean and protect them from severe conditions. Menopausal women suffering from dry eye must clean their eyelids using a doctor-prescribed scrub. Later, apply a warm compress to the eyelids. Doing these frequently will help to control dry eye.

Are dry eyes common during the menopause phase?

Yes, a good percentage of perimenopausal and menopausal women experience dry eyes. The reason is less production of hormones. 

Conclusion

Women going through menopause suffer a lot of health conditions due to hormonal fluctuations. Many women suffer from dry eye in their perimenopause and menopause stages. The problem can be managed by following some approaches. However, if the problem is worse, consult your doctor immediately.

Follow the above methods to deal with dry eyes menopause.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.