Dry Eye Disease is a common eye condition – studies show that nearly 20% of North Americans middle aged and older suffer from dry eye disease. The probability of you developing dry eye if you are a woman, and older than 50, increases. Hormonal changes that older women undergo make it much more likely that they will suffer from dry eye as they age, including symptoms such as blurry vision and irritation of the eyes.
What are the biological changes that happen during menopause which affect your eyes? The tear film in the eyes relies on certain chemical signals to remain stable, and these signals get disrupted during and after menopause. Some doctors believe that androgen, a hormone implicated in menopause, may be the culprit causing dry eye problems for menopausal women. Eyes may become inflamed, which leads to decreased tear production, and possibly dry eye disease. Add in a dry environment and many medications and the risk factors for menopausal women increases exponentially.
Treatments for Dry Eye in Menopausal Women
Estrogen hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is sometimes used to treat menopausal symptoms, as the female hormone estrogen is one of the hormones that decreases during and after menopause. However, studies have shown that this treatment does not relieve symptoms of dry eye.
Refractive Eye Surgery
Refractive eye surgery, such as LASIK and PRK, may not be advised if you are 40 or older, and have dry eye disease. These procedures can affect nerve function in your cornea (the clear surface of your eye), which could worsen your dry eye problem. If you want to have a consultation regarding LASIK or PRK, it’s important that your eye doctor know about your dry eye condition. In that case, your eye doctor will know to do the appropriate tests to make sure that there is enough moisture in your eyes for laser vision correction.
There are other health conditions that are associated with dry eye and aging. These conditions include thyroid autoimmune disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. If you suffer from dry eye, make sure your doctor screens you for these diseases.
Allergies may cause eye inflammation, and may be the cause of your dry eye. Prescription and over-the-counter eye drops might relieve your dry eye and allergy problem. Your eye doctor will advise you as to which eye drops would be best for you.
Sometimes commonly prescribed medications can worsen, or even cause, dry eyes. Some of these medications are antidepressants and diuretics, which are often prescribed if you have a heart condition. Make sure to talk about this with your doctor if you suspect that one of the medications you are taking may be causing your dry eye problems. Perhaps changing your medication will be as effective, and won’t cause dry eye disease.