Why Dry Eye Affects More Women Than Men
The millions of women suffering from dry eyes can tell you that dry, itchy, watery eyes are no fun. Dry eye syndrome is not just uncomfortable or a nuisance, but can also negatively impact productivity and quality of life. Dry eye tends to develop in those aged 50 and up, and affects more women than men. Below well explain why its more prevalent among women than men.
Dry Or Irritated Eyes
Most of us will have experienced the feeling of dryness in our eyes. There are a number of causes for this:
- Being in an air-conditioned room or on an aeroplane low levels of moisture in these environments cause our eyes to dry out more quickly
- Working in front of a computer screen means that we blink less frequently. This encourages our eyes to dry out more quickly
- Dry eyes can be a symptom experienced when one gets older as the tear glands become less efficient and produce fewer tears
- There are a number of specific health conditions, known as autoimmune illnesses, which reduce the amount of tears produced
- Lastly, dry eyes can be one of a number of symptoms of menopause.
Cataracts And Menopause: Part 1
Along with hot flashes, night sweats, and loss of libido, cataracts are a postmenopausal symptom caused by decreased estrogen levels. Cataract symptoms are painless and develop slowly, so they are harder to detect. Common signs and symptoms include blurry vision, difficulty seeing at night, sensitivity to light, seeing halos around light, double vision, and seeing fading colors.
Functional Dry Eye Relief
Iâve helped women find permanent relief from their dry eye symptoms by building up their healthy nutrition and restoring their hormonal balance. You are unique and might have to try a few combinations to find what works best for you. I believe that supplemental essential fatty acids and a nutritious diet will help with dry eyes. So letâs start here with some methods for you to try:
Nutrition. Eat three healthy and sensible meals and snacks every day. The meals should always include whole foods. Take a daily multivitamin, essential fatty acids, with EPA and DHA, plus vitamin E, which helps omega-3 do its work. Look for the right balance of omega-3, omega-6, and omega-9âit is all about balance. Read the label to determine if itâs free of lead, mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants.
Balance your hormones. Endocrine support can help your body produce natural levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Try eating more whole grains, less sugar, and fewer processed foods. This will help to control insulin levels and keep inflammation under control.
Check your medications. If you are on prescription drugs, talk to your healthcare provider to see if anything might be causing your dry eyes. There could be alternate medications.
Hydrate and humidify. If you are dehydrated, the fluid in your eyes can be depleted, so drink lots of water and herbal teas. Another thing you can try is a humidifier. Clean it with soap so you donât add more irritants to the air.
Low Estrogen Levels And Weight Gain: Is There A Connection
Sex hormones, such as estrogen, influence the amount of fat in the body. Estrogen regulates glucose and lipid metabolism. If your estrogen levels are low, it can result in weight gain.
If your estrogen levels are low and its affecting your weight, speak with your doctor. They can assess your symptoms and advise you on next steps. Its always a good idea to try to eat a balanced diet and exercise as often as possible. Talk with your doctor about developing a diet and exercise plan thats right for you.
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Effects Of Hormonal Replacement Therapy
Hormonal replacement therapy has proven both beneficial and harmful to postmenopausal women depending on the specific hormones used and the organ system being studied. This is the case in dry eye as well. It is debated whether HRT increases, decreases, or does not affect risk of dry eye. Schaumberg et al. found that estrogen plus progesterone HRT significantly increased the risk over no HRT with an odds ratio of 1.29. It has also been reported that greater doses of both estrogen only and estrogen plus progesterone HRT result in increased dry eye symptom severity compared with lower doses of the same treatments. Other studies have found that HRT actually decreases ocular complaints and increases the quantitative tear production. Further, Jensen et al. reported women taking > 5 years of HRT had significantly fewer ocular complaints and greater tear production than women taking < 5 years of HRT.
How Can Perimenopause Affect Your Eyes
As we approach menopause, we’re also approaching middle age, a time when it’s normal to experience slight eye deterioration anyway. Consequently, it can be tough to differentiate between which issues are due to the aging process and which are due to perimenopause. But one or two eye issues in particular are known to appear during perimenopause, so let’s talk about those.
As you approach and enter menopause, your estrogen levels start to fall, which can affect both your eyesight and the appearance of your eyes.
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Biological Changes That Can Affect Your Eyes
During menopause, the androgen hormone decreases, affecting the meibomian and lacrimal glands in the eyelids.
When these oil and fluid producing glands are affected, the eyelids can become inflamed, reducing tear production and tear quality consequently leading to dry eyes.
Some researchers believe that changes in estrogen levels are also linked to dry eye. This may be the reason for an increase in dry eye symptoms during certain times of your monthly cycle, or while taking birth control pills.
What Home Remedies Can Help A Dry Mouth
Home remedies for this symptom focus on trying to increase salivary production. When we eat something, this stimulates the salivary glands to produce saliva. While one option is to keep eating, this is perhaps not the healthiest or best solution.
Certain food types dry out your mouth. The list includes spicy food, crusty bread or dry biscuits and crackers. Caffeine and alcohol also have a dehydrating effect, so try to limit consumption of such drinks, and instead drink plenty of water. You may find that you need a bottle of water with you all the time, to keep your mouth moist, and while this may seem a bit of a nuisance, your kidneys will love you.
It is important to brush your teeth regularly to prevent any infections from setting in. Your dentist may also be able to recommend toothpaste or mouthwash to help with troublesome dry mouth symptoms.
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An Alternative Approach To Dry Eyes
The eyes are crucial diagnostic tools in many Eastern healing traditions. Practitioners will look deeply at a patientâs eyes to obtain better insight about the health concerns. In Traditional Chinese Medicine , the eyes are thought to be where your purest energy flows. When your life is balanced and you are healthy, your eyes radiate clarity that is visible to the practitioner. When your life is not balanced, your eyes show it, because the liver rules the eye in TCM.
Symptoms of dry eye might be a warning sign that your body is not detoxifying properly and thus inflammation occurs. The inflammation connection is supported many conventional eye doctors who encourage their patients to add omega-3 supplements or fish oil to their dry eye treatment. A recent study showed that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids reduced the risk of dry eye by 20 percent compared to women with low levels of omegaâ3.
In addition, there are other benefits when you increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids . They naturally moderate inflammation. They also assist in tear stimulation and secretion and help to increase oils in the secretion. In addition they are thought to moderate extra production of estrogen. These all help provide natural lubrication instead of temporary âartificialâ relief, such as over the counter eye drops.
Youre Getting Frequent Headaches
It’s a known fact that people with uteruses are more likely to get headaches and migraines overall the hormonal reasons why this is aren’t super well understood, but fluctuations in estrogen levels are one potential reason. You might notice that you get headaches during your luteal phase, right before your period starts, when your estrogen is at its lowest during your cycle. If your estrogen is low throughout your cycle, it could lead to more headaches, but it’s important to check with a doctor to make sure your headaches don’t have another, potentially more serious cause.
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Dry Eye Syndrome And Women
Dry eye syndrome is a condition characterized by dry, itchy, gritty and burning eyes. It occurs when the eye isnt properly lubricated, either due to insufficient or poor-quality tears. Healthy tears are made up of a delicate balance of water, oil, and mucous, and any imbalance in this composition can result in dry eyes.
The symptoms of dry-eye can range from mildly uncomfortable to incapacitating and can cause visual disturbances or corneal damage if left untreated. If you think you may have dry eyes, or experience any of the following symptoms, Dr. Monte Harrel can offer effective long-lasting relief.
Dry-eye symptoms include:
- Eyes that are red and sore
- Watery eyes
The Connection Between Eye Health And Hormones
Female hormones like estrogen and progesterone play an important role in many eye conditions. Experts are continuing to learn more about the connections between female hormones and the eye.
With menopause, the female body makes less estrogen and progesterone. Lower levels of female hormones that come with menopause can be connected to glaucoma, cataract, and dry eye, along with other eye conditions like macular degeneration.
A qualified eye doctor can examine your eyes and explain how your eyes are changing during menopause. Your eye doctor can then explain what can be done to improve your eyesight during and after menopause.
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Women And Autoimmune Disease
Autoimmune diseases are strikingly common in women, and Sjögrens syndrome is frequently associated with other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, scleroderma, and lupus. In any of these diseases, the very system that is supposed to protect you turns against you. At least 50 percent of women with rheumatoid arthritis have concomitant symptoms of Sjögrens, and it is conservatively estimated that at least four million women in North America have the disease at least to some extent. Goldman2
Male Hormones And Vision
Our eyes may also be affected by androgens, “male” hormones like testosterone, which both men and women make. For example, women with polycystic ovary syndrome often have dry eyes due to excess androgen levels. Whether you’re a man or a woman, lower androgen levels may affect specific glands that make tears or the oily film that keeps the surface of your eye moist. Finally, middle-age men may find their vision isnt what it used to be due to low testosterone levels.
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How Can You Prevent & Manage Dry Eyes During Or After Menopause
Unfortunately, there isnt much you can do to control your bodys natural hormone levels. However, you can reduce your risk of developing severe dry eye symptoms in several other ways. Here are a few strategies we recommend:
- Avoid activities that require staring at objects for long periods. If you work in front of a computer for most of the day, take frequent breaks to rest your eyes and remember to blink periodically.
- Use protective eyewear when performing outdoor activities. Sunglasses can offer some protection from wind, and wrap-around variants may also shield your eyes from dry air.
- Use a humidifier to keep the air in your home moist. That way, at least youll always be able to come back to a place where your eyes are comfortable after going out to run errands or take part in activities.
- Contact lens wear may exacerbate symptoms of dry eyes. If you wear contact lenses and are experiencing dry eye symptoms, ask your optometrist about contact lens options which are more suitable for dry eye patients.
- Change your diet to include more omega-3 fatty acids, which help the body fight inflammation. Eating more omega-3s may help reduce the inflammation and redness that often accompany dry eyes.
These strategies can make severe dry eye symptoms less likely, and may also alleviate specific symptoms that have already occurred. However, its also a good idea to visit your eye doctor and follow their recommendations for managing dry eyes if you have them.
Causes Of Low Estrogen
Low estrogen symptoms surface when the signaling pathway from the brain to the ovaries doesnt work. The malfunctioning has a few causes.
1. Excess Exercise
First of all, overexercising is one of the three contributors to a medical syndrome known as the Athletes Triad. Together with irregular eating and bone loss, it leads to low estrogen levels. Sports like figure skating, distance running, and gymnastics are responsible for this phenomenon.
2. Restricting Fat and Calories
Also, estrogens are hormones. Cholesterol forms the backbone of all hormones in the body. Since this is true, severely reducing dietary fat would hamper estrogen production. Fat levels below 22% may prevent menstrual bleeding. This research suggests that estrogen regulates the fatty tissue in cells.
A womans genes may explain why she doesnt have enough estrogen. Also, medication, such as radiation and chemotherapy, may bring about low estrogen levels.
Candidates For Treatment And Prognosis
Identifying which patients will most benefit most from hormonal treatment of DED is critical to optimal management of the disease. Several factors influence patient selection age and endogenous hormonal levels seem to be the most important considerations.
Feng et al. found that HRT improved tear production in patients with dry eye, but that the effect was only significant in participants < 50 years old. The improvement in tear production was also negatively correlated with age. Additional studies have shown that estrogen can be helpful in early menopausal period but both systemic and ocular adverse may be more with estrogen in later life. However, the notion that younger patients benefit more from androgen eye drop therapy is limited to peri- and post-menopausal women, as Connor et al. demonstrated that this therapy in premenopausal women did not lead to the same degree of symptom relief.
Dry Eye And Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy may be recommended to stave off unwanted effects of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats. The idea of hormone replacement therapy is to give female hormones such as estrogen after the body stops producing as much during menopause.
HRT can help with a lot of problematic effects of menopause. In fact, estrogen may also combat some vision changes and ocular diseases that can occur at this time.
Unfortunately, dry eye is also linked to changes in estrogen levels, which can be a real issue for some people. Those who undergo hormone replacement therapy are also 4-to-7 times more likely to complain of dry eyes.
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Watch Out: Your Dry Itchy Eyes Might Not Be Caused By Allergies
Dry eyes are a common symptom of the menopause, as low levels of estrogen and progesterone cause glandular changes. In other words, normal hormone levels instruct your glands to produce the right amount of oil and tears, keeping your eyes feeling great. But hormonal imbalances cause your eyes to be less lubricated, leaving your eyes feeling painful, burning, itchy, red, and watery.
As Meg explains: Some women have it really bad, where they cant even open their eyes in the morning. Your eyes hurt and itch and water a lot. Its like when youre out and theres a big gust of wind and your eyes get all dry. Youd think that because theyre watery that would help, but dry eyes need that oil from the tear glands, not water.
That said, dont assume that just because youre not waking up in agony that you dont have dry eyes. Meg herself didnt suffer from any major or noticeable symptoms. I knew post-menopausal women got dry eyes, she tells us, so I did a lot of research on it and thought it might be good to get tested, even though I didnt feel like I had it. At the same time, I made an appointment to get laser eye surgery to correct my vision and they told me, We cant laser your eyes because youve got dry eyes! Even though I didnt have any intense symptoms, I still needed to clear my eyes.
So, what can you do about it?
First, Get Tested
Otherwise, theres a few more treatments you could consider:
What Is Hormonal Imbalance
Hormones are secreted from the endocrine glands . They travel through your blood, influencing your organs. Thus, hormones control a few crucial functions, which include body development, reproduction and metabolism.
Hormonal imbalance means either excessive or less secretion of a certain hormone. Even a little change in your hormone secretion can cause adverse effects in your body, including skin.
In women, hormonal imbalance can lead to early menopause, primary ovarian insufficiency, polycystic ovary syndrome and sometimes even ovarian cancer. Among men, it can cause serious issues like prostate cancer. One of the most common risks of hormonal imbalance is also diabetes and thyroid.
If you notice any symptoms of hormonal imbalances, it can be an indicator of bigger issues. Leaving it unattended can cause life-threatening risks.
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