Menopause affects a woman between her mid-forties and fifties. Her body is going through many changes. Pain during sex, brain fog, or hot flashes are some of the menopause symptoms that most women may experience. But there is also a link between menopause and dry eyes. It can cause irritation and a lot of discomfort. Let us tell you about the causes of dry eyes during menopause and what you can do to treat them.
What are dry eyes?
Dry eye, also known as dry eye syndrome or keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough quality tears to keep the surface of the eye adequately lubricated. This can lead to discomfort, irritation and possible damage to the ocular surface, says Dr Sanjiv Gupta, director and senior eye surgeon at i Care Centre, New Delhi.
Causes of dry eyes during menopause
Like any symptom of menopause, dry eyes also have their causes. Some of them are:
1. Hormonal changes
There is a drop in estrogen levels during menopause and that can affect tear production, leading to dry eyes.
As you get older, it’s not just wrinkles or fine lines that you start to notice. As people age, tear production decreases, making them more susceptible to dry eye symptoms.
Certain medications such as antihistamines and decongestants can reduce tear production as a side effect, worsening dry eye symptoms during menopause, the expert says.
4. Systemic health problems
Health conditions such as Sjögren’s syndrome, diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of dry eyes, and menopausal women may be more susceptible.
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5. Environmental factors
Exposure to smoke, wind, and dry or polluted air can worsen dry eye symptoms in postmenopausal women.
Symptoms of dry eyes during menopause
You will experience dryness in your eyes, along with other symptoms, such as:
• Burning or stinging sensation in the eyes.
• Feeling as if something has hit the eye.
• Excessive tearing (a reflex response to dehydration)
• Blurred vision.
• Redness of the eyes.
• Sensitivity to light.
• Eye fatigue or discomfort, especially with prolonged use of screens.
Treatment for dry eyes
You can try some treatment options for dry eyes during menopause. Some of them are:
• Over-the-counter lubricating eye drops
• Anti-inflammatory eye drops or medications to increase tear production
• Applying a warm compress to the eyes can help stimulate the tear glands
• Control environmental factors and stay hydrated
• Punctal plugs, which are very small devices that can be inserted into the tear ducts to slow tear drainage and retain moisture.
Tips to prevent dry eyes during menopause
Drinking enough water is a good way to prevent dehydration and stay hydrated by helping your eyes, apart from other parts of your body. Here are other ways to prevent dry eyes:
1. Eat a balanced diet
Make sure you eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins that support eye health, Dr. Gupta suggests.
2. Use humidifiers
Use humidifiers in dry indoor environments so they can add moisture to the air. That means you should use humidifiers both in the office and at home.
3. Take breaks
When using screens or reading, take frequent breaks to blink and rest your eyes. Constantly looking at your computer will further lead to dry eyes.
It is essential to consult an ophthalmologist if your eyes still hurt.