How to Take Care of Your Vision During Menopause
Malaika Hill | March 20, 2018
It is not uncommon for women to experience changes in their eye health and vision at a time when hormone levels are fluctuating, such as during menopause. Menopause affects all of the systems of the body, and the eyes are no exception. Studies have shown that this effect is caused by a decrease in sex hormones, mainly estrogen and androgen levels. If you are a woman of menopausal age, taking a proactive approach to your eye health is key to recognizing these common conditions early.
Impaired vision and menopause
Dry eye and menopause: Part 1
Dry eye is one of the most common symptoms of menopause, and women over the age of 50 have been shown to be at high risk of developing dry eye. When estrogen and androgen levels decrease, so does the salty solution of your inner tear film and the oily layer of your outer tear film. As a result, the eyes dry out and become red, swollen, and irritated.
Dry eye and menopause: Part 2
There are many dry eye treatment options to help ease your symptoms. Most focus on increasing or conserving tears and treating inflammation. A more common treatment is artificial tears in the form of eye drops that supplement the loss of natural tears. Taking nutritional supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, or using an eye drop that increases tear production can also help. Other approaches that your doctor may recommend include massaging your eye lids or applying warm compresses.
Cataracts and menopause: Part 1
Along with hot flashes, night sweats, and loss of libido, cataracts are a premenopausal 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.
Cataracts and menopause: Part 2
Although removing cataracts through surgery is the only true treatment, early symptoms can be improved with a new eyeglass prescription or reading in brighter light. If these measures don’t help and vision loss starts to impact your everyday activities, a surgeon can remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear artificial lens. In fact, many people can achieve better vision than they had before they developed cataracts after cataract surgery.
Glaucoma and menopause: Part 1
Menopausal women have high buildup of intraocular pressure, which is a cause of glaucoma. High eye pressure can lead to optic nerve damage, which causes vision loss and, eventually, blindness. You can protect your eyes against vision loss from glaucoma with early detection and treatment intervention. In its early stages, glaucoma doesn’t have symptoms or cause pain or discomfort, but glaucoma can slowly cause loss of side vision, and, over time, central vision can decrease until it is gone.
Glaucoma and menopause: Part 2
Although there is no cure for glaucoma, the progression of the disease can be slowed down with certain medications or surgeries. Prescription eye drops or pills can lower intraocular pressure. Laser surgery can drain fluid from the eye, but it may yield only temporary results. A more conventional surgery can create a new opening for fluid to drain from the eye on its own. Your eye doctor can help you decide which option is best for you.
Age-related macular degeneration and menopause
Although the factors that cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are unknown, it is the leading cause of vision loss in women over age 55. AMD occurs when the center of the retina, a delicate layer at the back of the eye, starts to deteriorate. When this layer, also known as the macula, deteriorates, you can experience blurry vision and can lose the ability to see straight ahead. Unfortunately, there are no treatments for AMD, but adopting a healthy lifestyle is a form of prevention.
Hormone therapy to protect eye health during menopause
Because changes to vision and eye disease during menopause are caused by changes in hormones, hormone therapy that replenishes estrogen levels may reduce the risk of eye disease. However, there is some controversy surrounding hormone therapy for dry eye disease because it has been shown in some studies to actually be a cause of dry eye disease.
A proactive approach to eye health at menopause
Reaching menopausal age brings an increased risk for vision disturbances and eye diseases. Taking a proactive approach is the best path to preserving your vision. Annual visits to your eye doctor are necessary for diagnosing any eye condition early, which means conditions can be treated easily and your vision is protected.