Eye Health Central

Can Menopause Cause Dry Eyes

Menopause and Dry Eyes

Most people are aware of the important role hormones play throughout our bodies, affecting everything, including blood sugar, blood pressure, growth, fertility, metabolism, and even sleep, but few people are aware that hormones also affect our eyes.

Whilst it is estimated that approximately a third of the UK female population is pre-menopausal or menopausal, research has found that 86% of women are unaware of the connection between menopause and eye health. The number of women aged 45 and older, which is when menopause typically starts is also increasing.

Pre-menopausal and menopausal women

It is not uncommon for women going through premenopause or menopause to experience dry eye symptoms. Changes in hormone levels can affect all three layers of the tear film, reducing the quantity and quality of the tears and increasing the risk of evaporation.

As oestrogen levels drop, skin can become thinner and less elastic, and mucous membranes can dry out. According to optometrists.org,61% of pre-menopausal and menopausal women suffer from dry eyes. The research indicates that during menopause the androgen hormone decreases, which affects the meibomian and lacrimal glands in the eyelids, by reducing the levels of oil and fluids these glands normally produce, this can lead to the eyelids becoming inflamed, reducing the tear production and tear quality - this leads to dry eyes.

Although experienced by so many women, dry eyes are something of a hidden symptom of menopause, often overshadowed by the predominant features of hot flushes, sweating, insomnia, depression, and brain fog.

So although dry eyes may not be the number one concern of menopausal women, it should not be overlooked, it can leave your eyes, red and inflamed, and cause discomfort - a sensation similar to having something gritty in your eye -. On occasions instead of the eyes feeling dry they water excessively, this is due to the tears that are produced breaking up and falling out of the eye.
If left untreated dry eye syndrome can cause severe discomfort, pain, and even eye infections.

Some studies have shown that over 25% of people with dry eye syndrome experience increased anxiety and depression, this can be in part due to the dryness and discomfort causing them not to wear their contact lenses, adding to the concerns of outward appearances, ageing, and lowering confidence levels. In some severe cases, people can find it difficult to drive at night due to increased glare.

Signs and Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome

  • Burning in the eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Gritty feeling in the eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • Foreign body sensation
  • Blurred vision

Self-Care for Dry Eyes

There are things you can do to help relieve the symptoms of dry eyes, you can try 

  • Rewetting drops - can add temporary moisture to the eyes and are readily available online or in high-street supermarkets and pharmacies.
  • Staying hydrated - overall body hydration can help with eye hydration
  • Resting the eyes from screen time - helping to prevent the eyes from drying out
  • A good diet -  Including omega-3 fish oils and olive oil in your diet can help alleviate symptoms
  • Evening Primrose oil - Often recommended for menopausal symptoms can also alleviate dry eye symptoms
  • A warmed eye mask - Placed on closed eyelids can help soften and loosen blocked oil glands that supply oil to the tears

Professional Care for Dry Eyes

Don't be afraid to talk to your optometrist about your dry eyes, they can assess your eye health and recommend specific eye drops, a change in your contact lenses or wear times if needed.

Dry eyes may only be one symptom of menopause, but you may be experiencing others, or they may follow, if you are struggling physically or mentally always reach out to your family doctor about health issues, there are self-help groups and medications they can recommend.

Author: John Dreyer Optometrist Bsc(Hons), MCOPTOM, DipCLP
Created: 1 May 2024, Last modified: 20 May 2024