Menopause & Dry Eyes
Dry eye symptoms include:
- A burning, itchy sensation in the eyes
- Redness of the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Excessive tearing
Determining Your Risk
Dry eyes are what we call a multifactorial disease, meaning there is no single cause. Instead, many sources contribute to the problem. These sources might be genetic, diet, prolonged near work, environmental, or hormonal in the case of menopause. Scientific studies have loosely associated the lowered production of estrogen and androgens with this increased risk.
If you have already struggled with dry eyes, be prepared for symptoms to worsen as soon as you enter perimenopause. Women experience dry eye disease at double the rate of men once they reach fifty years old.
Complications from Having Dry Eyes
Dry eye disease is more than just a nuisance as well. If left untreated, it can seriously endanger your eyes' natural function and risk damaging sight. Tears help protect the eye's surface and wash away contaminants. Without this, you increase the risk of eye infections.
Tears not only clean but lubricate the eye's surface. That lubrication protects against abrasions and scratches on the corneal surface. Those abrasions can lead to infections and cause inflammation or lead to corneal ulcers.
Daily Changes to Reduce Dry Eye Symptoms
The good news is that you can take a few easy steps to help decrease dry eye symptoms in your everyday life. We will go into some more long-term medical treatments that may work, but these apply across the board to everyone. If you have dry eye symptoms, consider implementing the following changes:
- Wrap around eyeglasses when outdoors in wind and sun.
- Divert air that blows directly into eyes, especially in cars.
- Consider a humidifier for your home or office if you live in an arid area.
- Take eye breaks when doing tasks for long periods.
- Supplement with high quality omega 3 fatty acids.
If you are interested in some more ways to help reduce dry eye symptoms, give our article on ‘How to Treat Dry Eyes’ a read. We discuss other ways to get relief, including some tips on foods that can help improve tear quality and production.
Medical Treatments for Dry Eyes
A few potential medical treatments can help manage dry eye disease caused by menopause. No single solution is one size fits all. The changes in our bodies caused by hormones are multifactorial and complicated.
What may work for one person might make symptoms worse in another. So always track symptoms and discuss changes and therapy needs with your doctors and optometrist.
Hormonal Replacement Therapy
A common therapy for women going through menopause is Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT). This treatment involves supplementing hormones that the body is decreasing the production of, most often types of estrogen. HRT is one therapy that definitely varies from patient to patient. Some patients see improvement; others have dry eye symptoms worsened.
The one thing most studies agree on is that higher doses tend to cause dry eyes. So if you have a history of dry eyes, discuss your concerns with your doctor if you are on or considering HRT.
There are several over-the-counter eye drop treatments for dry eyes. These tend to replicate tear production and are marketed as artificial tears. A drop or two a day may be enough for many people to manage dry eye symptoms. But be sure you are not overusing OTC applications as overuse can cause significant irritation.
If environmental changes and OTC treatments aren’t having the desired effect, it may be time to discuss a more tailored approach with your doctor. These prescriptions are highly dependent on the cause of your dry eye symptoms. They can range from cholinergic applications to increase natural tear production, specialized contact lenses, or anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling.
Most of the medical treatments we have discussed help with the chemical processes by which dry eye disease forms. Another common cause of dry eyes is clogged glands. By applying gentle heat and massage-like stimulation, oil blockages can be removed from the meibomian glands. These tiny glands line our eyelids and help keep our eyes coated with a thin layer of oil to keep tears from evaporating.
This heat treatment is marketed as LipiFlow and can show marked improvement in dry eye relief if the source of the problem is clogged oil glands.
Get Your Eyes Checked
We should all be checking in with our optometrist yearly to help maintain our vision. And that need only increases as we get older. If you haven’t been to the eye doctor in a while, now is the time to schedule your appointment. Getting a baseline for your normal vision can help you notice and diagnose issues as they arise much easier.
As we age, so much about our bodies change, don’t be caught unaware, and don’t ignore those changes. Even something as simple as dry eyes can have a significant negative impact on your daily life. Talk to your doctor and optometrist about what solutions may work best for you.
Dry Eye Care in Asheville, NC
Don’t let the brisk mountain air, allergies, or aging keep you from seeing the beauty of the world around you. Asheville Vision and Wellness is dedicated to providing the best eye care in the region with highly trained staff and the latest technology.
Since 1989 we have been serving Asheville and the greater area of Western North Carolina. Schedule an eye exam today, and we can get started on a customized treatment for your unique eye-care needs.