As we age, changes to our vision are common due to genetics, natural deterioration, diet and lifestyle. These may include difficulty seeing up close, distinguishing colour or transitioning between different light levels. Though usually not severe, these changes may indicate something serious. Age increases the risk of eye diseases and conditions that could affect your vision.
As we approach and enter the menopause, our oestrogen levels decrease. This can affect both our vision and the physical aspects of our eyes. The shape of your eye may also alter, making contact lenses more uncomfortable and necessitating the need for corrective lenses to read properly.
Other problems of the eyes common after midlife and menopause include:
Dry eyes are a little-known side effect of menopause. A survey revealed that two-thirds of women going through or leading up to this stage in life experience dry eye, yet only 16 percent identify the symptom as being related to menopause (ref 1). Dry eyes are a condition that occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly, which can cause irritation, swelling and inflammation. In some cases, it can lead to blurry vision and a heightened sensitivity to light. The eyelids may also become tender due to the dryness. The androgen hormone decreases during this time, affecting the meibomian and lacrimal glands located in the eyelids, resulting in a decrease in oil production which causes tears to evaporate at a faster rate.
In contrast, other women may find that their eyes are dripping with too many tears. This can happen when the Meibomian glands become blocked or exhausted, and they don’t produce enough natural oils to mix with the tears. As a result, the tears just evaporate in an overflow of watery eyes. This is also a symptom of dry eye syndrome.
Changes in eye pressure
The shift in hormones caused by menopause can take a toll on one's vision. The extra pressure puts a strain on your eyes, making it harder to see things that are far away and to focus, especially at night. This pressure can also lead to changes in the shape of your eyes, which makes wearing contact lenses uncomfortable. Additionally, your eyes may tire faster, making it difficult to concentrate. In addition, women in menopause often experience high levels of pressure inside the eye, which can lead to glaucoma - a common disease in older adults. (Read more here)
What can you do to relieve dry eyes and support eye health:
Clean your eye lids: carefully cleaning and hygiene of the eyelids will help remove bacteria and other particles.
Apply artificial tears: use preservative-free drops to reduce dryness in the eye.
Cut down on screen usage: when using digital devices, you tend to blink less, making eyes drier. Make sure to take regular breaks from screens every hour.
Relieve your eyes: a warm compress or eye mask placed over closed eyelids can help dislodge any oil blockages in the tear-producing glands located along the eyelid.
Protect against outdoor elements: low temperatures and strong winds can make your tears evaporate faster, making dry eyes worse. Wear wrap-around sunglasses to protect your eyes during activities such as running or cycling.
If you wear contact lenses, speak to an optician about ones that keep your eyes moist; it's also recommended to give yourself some days without wearing contacts so your eyes can rest.
Keep your environment humid – use a humidifier particularly if you have central heating or keep a bowl of water in front of the radiator to increase moisture in the air.
Know your triggers - Be mindful of what causes your eyes to start itching. Is it contact lenses, smoggy air or pollen? Make a note of any irritants you come across and try to steer clear of them whenever you can.
Your diet and eating sufficient foods for your eye health will also help, especially Omega-3 fatty acids and eating the rainbow when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Learn more about what to eat for eye health here