Dry eye syndrome occurs when either the tear quality, quantity or both are compromised. This may happen because your eyes fail to produce enough tears, or it may happen because the tears your eyes do produce are of low-quality and evaporating too quickly. Healthy tears compose a delicate balance of water, mucous, and oil, and any imbalance can lead to dry eyes.
WHY IS DRY EYE SYNDROME MORE COMMON IN WOMEN?
Dry eye syndrome affect women more because of the hormonal changes that can occur throughout a woman’s life. The fluctuation of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone can directly affect tear production and quality. For example, low testosterone levels and high estrogen levels can both play a role in the development of dry eyes.
Hormonal fluctuations can negatively impact tear production and quality. A number of events may affect hormone levels, thereby causing dry eyes, such as menstrual cycles, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, menopause and hormone replacement therapy.
- Women who take oral contraceptives are more likely to experience dry eyes as a side effect. That’s because birth control pills cause a reduction in androgen levels, which may lead to fewer tears being produced as well as less tear-film stability.
- Pregnancy is another situation in which women may experience dry eyes. During pregnancy, hormones associated with milk production (prolactin) can reduce tear production, causing dry eyes. Some women find that they need to temporarily stop wearing contact lenses or eye makeup while pregnant due to increased eye sensitivity. In early pregnancy, morning sickness and vomiting can lead to dehydration, which can affect the moisture in the eyes as well.
- 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.
- Many women opt to use hormone replacement therapy to manage menopause symptoms. Especially if the woman receives estrogen alone, a common side effect of hormone replacement therapy is dry eyes. Using a combination of estrogen and progesterone may lower the likelihood of developing dry eyes somewhat. You should discuss the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy with your primary caregiver to determine if it’s right for you. Be sure to tell your provider if you have a history of dry eye syndrome or if any particular ocular condition run in your family. The same is true for other medications commonly prescribed to patients over 50, such as antidepressants, beta-blockers, and diuretics.
- Makeup and dry eye – One reason why women are more likely to experience symptoms of dry eyes compared to men is that women mostly wear makeup, and some of the products and ingredients in these makeup products can cause irritation to your eyes and even cause blockages to the oil glands that produce the protective layer in our tear film that prevents evaporation of our tears, this blockage of the meibomian glands is the most common reason why makeup can cause dry eyes.
- Autoimmune and dry eye – There are a variety of autoimmune conditions that are known to cause dry eye, these conditions are all more common in women. These autoimmune diseases include Sjogren’s Syndrome, thyroid disease (including graves disease), lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
SYMPTOMS OF DRY EYES
The symptoms of dry eye syndrome can range from mild to incapacitating. When left untreated, this condition can eventually lead to permanent damage to your vision or cornea. Symptoms may include:
📍Itching or burning eyes
📍A feeling of grittiness
📍Irritation of the eyes
📍Red, sore eyes
📍Sensitivity to light
📍Overall eye discomfort
If you notice any of these symptoms or experience sudden changes in your vision and find it difficult to perform your daily activities, please schedule an eye exam with us at Cypress Eye Centre.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO REDUCE THE SYMPTOMS OF DRY EYES
If you are experiencing dry eyes and the discomfort they can cause, here are a few steps you can take to find relief.
➡️ Stay hydrated
➡️ Use a humidifier in your home or office
➡️ Always remove eye makeup before bed with a gentle makeup remover
➡️ Wear sunglasses outdoors to help protect eyes from debris and wind
➡️ Book an appointment with your eye doctor for further treatment and management.