The menopause isn’t called ‘The Change’ for nothing. During this time of life, the natural decline of the oestrogen hormone in the body causes women to experience many symptoms – and for some, alongside the hot flushes and night sweats, these can include dry eyes and other changes in vision. Here we take an in-depth look at the menopause and eye problems.
What is the menopause and how does it affect women’s health?
The menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, when a woman’s periods become less frequent, before eventually stopping altogether. It’s usually a long and gradual process, with symptoms often occurring for months or years before a woman’s final period, and then continuing for an average of four years after this time.
Periods stop occurring because the ovaries no longer release an egg each month to be fertilised. When this happens, the balance of hormones in the body changes, often bringing with it an array of physical signs and symptoms.
Dry eyes and other effects on eye health
The massive change in hormone balance during the menopause can sometimes cause eye problems, most commonly, dry eyes. Just as the hormonal changes that occur in pregnancy can bring on eye changes, the changes during the menopause are sometimes to blame for dry eye syndrome.
So why does this happen? Well, it’s because our oestrogen and androgen levels are linked to tear production. When the balance of these hormones changes during menopause, women produce less tears, so it is more likely that they will experience dry, tired and irritated eyes.
But dry eye syndrome isn’t the only visual problem that can be brought on by the onset of the menopause. Other eye problems include:
- Cataracts. Women going through menopause are at a higher risk of developing cataracts than men of the same age.
- Glaucoma. This vision-threatening condition can be associated with menopause, and 59% of glaucoma patients are women.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The leading cause of vision loss in older people, AMD also seems to be linked to oestrogen production, meaning that women who experience an early menopause (and/or start their periods later) are at greater risk of developing AMD.
So, what can be done to combat the effects of the menopause on eye health?
Treating menopause-related eye problems
For women going through the menopause, good support from a GP is essential. The GP can refer you to specialists as needed and recommend you for treatments including hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to alleviate some of the symptoms of the menopause.
Treating menopause-related eye problems may also require a visit to a specialist who can assess your overall eye health. For dry eyes, an over-the-counter treatment may be all that’s required. Other eye problems can be helped with a change in diet or lifestyle. However, more serious conditions like cataracts or glaucoma may require surgery.
If you are concerned about the menopause and associated eye problems, book an appointment with your GP or contact us to book a consultation with vision specialist Allon Barsam.