What exactly are dry eyes?

Dry eyes happen when your eyes aren’t seeing as clearly as they used to, because they are irritated, dry, red, and itchy. If you are over 45 years of age, and have dry eye symptoms, there could be something going on in your body that needs attention. Most women imagine hot flashes, moodiness and night sweats, when they think of menopause. However, research has shown that dry eye syndrome is a somewhat little-known symptom of menopause. This symptom affects about 60% of perimenopausal and menopausal women, but only a small percentage of them realize, or even suspect, that menopause might be to blame for dry and itchy eyes. Although dry eye syndrome is not a serious health problem, the unpleasant symptoms can negatively affect your quality of life, especially if your vision is reduced, or your eyes become extra sensitive to light and environmental conditions.

Dry eyes and hormonal changes

Hormones are important to your eye health, and studies have revealed that there are estrogen and testosterone receptors on the cornea, and on the Meibomian gland situated just inside the eyelid – the gland which keeps your eyes moist. Studies have suggested that this indicates a connection between your tears and your sex hormones. As you grow older and go into menopause, these hormones – estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, begin to decrease. And of course, their efficiency in keeping your eyes lubricated decreases, as does the ability of the sex hormones keeping the vagina lubricated during sex. Hormonal changes can result in your eyes being itchy, dry, tired, and over-sensitive to irritation from smoke, wind and light. You could even develop a problem wearing contact lenses. Healthy eyes are usually covered with a “tear film” which protects your eyes from environmental and other conditions. With the onset of menopause, many women have a tendency to suffer from dry eyes, without really knowing what it is all about.

What to do if you get dry eye syndrome

With the onset of menopause, many women have an increased tendency to suffer from dry eyes. It is believed to be because with the change in hormones, that the composition of your protective tears also alters. If the symptoms are severe, and you are at the menopausal age, then the best way to go would be to visit the doctor for an examination. The doctor may recommend some over-the-counter drops to counter the redness and itchiness, which should help. He might also schedule bloodwork to check hormone levels, and possibly suggest HRT – hormone replacement therapy. Not all women are keen to use HRT because of certain side effects, but over-time, HRT meds have improved greatly by ongoing research. Many of the side effects have been reduced, and no longer present the dangers as in past years.

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