Many women recognize hot flashes and night sweats as symptoms of menopause, but thousands of women are unaware of another common problem – dry eyes. According to reported data, more than 3 million American women suffer from dry eyes, with the condition affecting two to three times more women than men. In fact, a menopausal woman’s amount of tears can decrease by as much as 60 percent, as compared to the amount produced at age 18.
Dry eyes are not just a reduction in or lack of tears, though that is certainly part of the problem. Tears are a fundamental part of clear, comfortable vision. Tears help the eye function as they lubricate and protect the eyes from bacteria and environmental irritants. If left untreated, severe forms of dry eye can result in impaired vision or damage to the eye’s surface. Symptoms of dry eye include irritation, redness and/or a general feeling that something is in the eye. Allergic eye disease can be similar, but may frequently causes itching. The two conditions are often confused, but they have different causes and require different treatments in order to get relief.
While dry eye is a common issue, women may also experience other eye and vision changes. Just prior to menopause, there is an increased need for corrective lenses for reading, quality of vision may worsen and some women have a loss of ability to focus. During this time in a woman’s life, it is also normal to develop floaters.
Other problems of the eye common after midlife and menopause include both cataracts and glaucoma. Cataracts result when the crystalline lens becomes cloudy. Glaucoma is a condition that results in damage to the optic nerves and loss of vision, usually because the eye pressure is too high. It can permanently damage vision and lead to blindness if untreated.
Prevention and early diagnosis are the keys to maintaining healthy vision. Schedule routine eye exams to maintain eye health, drink plenty of water, wear sunglasses, do not smoke, limit alcohol consumption, control blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars and eat foods rich in antioxidants, like green leafy vegetables.
If you think you may have dry eye disease, ocular allergies or if you are suffering any other eye concern, it is important to not ignore what you are experiencing. Talk with your eye care professional to get an appropriate diagnosis and to determine a course of treatment that is best for you.
I am hosting the Red Hot Mamas Seminar on Tuesday, June 16 at Portneuf Medical Center. The event will focus on “Aging and Eye Health.” I will provide tips on taking care of your eyes during menopause, discuss types of eye care specialists and address eye concerns that may occur beyond middle-age. Doors open at 6pm and the presentation will begin at 6:30. There will be a question and answer session following the presentation. Registration is preferred; click to register online. To learn more about upcoming events and seminars at Portneuf, like us on Facebook.