It sounds unfair, but women are twice as likely to get dry eyes as men. Blame it on hormones, the use of oral contraceptives, and certain autoimmune disorders. Not only this, but dry eye syndrome in women over 50 is more common than in men in the same age group.
In this post, we explain why and take a closer look at the symptoms of dry eyes in women, treatment methods, and how to reduce your risk of dry eyes in the first place. Read on!
Dry Eyes Symptoms in Women
Symptoms of dry eye syndrome in women range from mild to severe. They include:
- Constant dry eyes
- Gritty and sandy feeling in the eye
- Eye irritation
- An itchy or burning feeling
- Eyes that feel tired, droopy, and sore
- Red eyes
- Sensitivity to light and wind
- Scratchy sensation in your eyes
- Blurry vision
- Watery eyes as a response to excessive dryness
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Occasional eye pain
- Changes in vision
- Difficulty focusing, reading, and driving, especially at night
- Stringy mucus around or in the eyes
Are you experiencing any of these symptoms? Our quick online test can help you find out whether you have dry eyes.
What Causes Dry Eyes in Women?
Several factors contribute to dry eye disease in women, from hormonal changes to the use of birth control pills. These affect the quality and quantity of your tear film. In other words, your tear production decreases and the tear film becomes less stable.
Your hormones go completely haywire during your menstrual cycle. This can lead to a host of issues, from stomach cramps to spotty skin. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your eyes are also affected.
During your monthly cycle, your estrogen levels go up. Studies show that this worsens dry eyes. Symptoms appear a few days after your period and last through ovulation. But they’re temporary and won’t lead to full-blown dry eye syndrome.
Use of Oral Contraceptives
Oral contraceptives come with several eye-related side effects. You may have blurry vision, eye inflammation, and even dry eye syndrome. That’s because these pills alter your hormone levels.
Your androgen levels go down after taking the contraceptive pill. This negatively affects your tear glands, leading to reduced quality and quantity of tears.
Research shows that pregnancy drastically affects your hormones and causes dry eyes. But the dryness is only temporary. It will go away a few weeks after you give birth, once your hormone levels balance out.
In addition, during early pregnancy, morning sickness and vomiting can cause dehydration. This can also affect the moisture level in your eyes, making them dry and dehydrated.
Dry eye symptoms in menopausal and perimenopausal women are quite common, shows a 2017 study. During menopause, your body makes less estrogen, progesterone, and other reproductive hormones. This affects certain tear-producing glands in the eyelids.
When that happens, your eyelids become inflamed and sore, and your tear production decreases. This leads to dry eyes. That means that if you’re a woman and over 50, you are at a greater risk of dry eye syndrome.
Use of Cosmetics
If you constantly wear eye makeup, like mascara and eyeliner, you increase your risk of developing dry eyes. Makeup debris can plug your oil glands and disrupt your tear film.
What’s more, certain ingredients in your cosmetic products can irritate and inflame your eyes. Even makeup removers containing harsh chemicals can thin out your tear film, causing the tears to evaporate prematurely.
Did you know thyroid disorders are more common in women than men? And that’s not all. Thyroid disorders and chronic dry eye syndrome are interlinked.
Thyroid problems can be the cause of your dry burning eyes. They can also inflame your tear glands, further drying out your eyes. And since thyroid disorders can cause bulging eyes, this may also worsen dry eyes.
Sometimes, your own body can also set you up for an increased risk of dry eyes. Women are at a higher risk for developing several autoimmune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjogren’s syndrome.
These disorders are directly associated with dry eyes. They cause inflammation of the tear glands. As a result, your eyes don’t make enough tears and feel dry and gritty. You may also experience pain, swelling, and irritation in the eye.
Dry Eye Treatment for Women
For most women, simply applying eye drops, using a warm compress, and massaging the eyelids is enough to treat dry eye symptoms. However, these methods don’t address the underlying causes of dry eyes. If your symptoms are persistent, you may also want to consider using punctal plugs and taking medications.
Take an Eye Health Supplement
Taking an eye health supplement like SightC or Blueberry Gummies can provide antioxidants, lutein, zeaxanthin, and other useful nutrients for your eyes. These nutrients support the normal functioning of the tear glands and can improve the quality of the tear film.
And since eye supplements are easy to take, you can use them in between your meals to complement a healthy diet.
Apply a Warm Compress
Warm compresses can soothe your eyes and provide almost instant relief from dryness. The moisture in the compress will hydrate your eyes while the warmth will soothe the pain and clear up blocked oil glands.
Sounds like an easy treatment for dry eyes, doesn’t it? It is. Simply soak a clean towel in warm water, place it over your eyes for 5-10 minutes, and repeat two or three times a day.
Massage Your Eyelids
A gentle eyelid massage will not just make you feel nice and pampered. It will also relieve eye dryness by liquifying the clogged oil glands and stimulating tears.
Once you’ve massaged your eyelids, clean them with a mild baby shampoo or lid cleaner. This will remove any crusty debris or bacterial buildup.
Use Lubricating Drops and Ointments
Applying eye drops and ointments can soothe severe dry eye symptoms. These products help lubricate the surface of your eye, providing relief from excessive dryness, grittiness, and soreness.
Drops and ointments may also reduce eyelid and corneal inflammation. They contain tear-stimulating medicines, keeping your eyes moistened for longer periods.
But keep in mind that long-term use of eye drops can make dry eye symptoms worse. This is especially true of eye drops containing preservatives.
Your eye care specialist may prescribe medication to treat very dry eyes. These will help reduce eyelid inflammation, stimulate oil and tear production, and possibly cure some underlying causes of dry eyes.
Generally, medicines for dry eyes are taken by mouth. Though you may find some in eye drop and ointment forms too.
Use Punctal Plugs
If the above methods don’t work, your eye care specialist may suggest punctal plugs. These are tiny silicone plugs that block your tear ducts, keeping your tears from draining too quickly.
Don’t worry, punctal plugs are inserted via a painless procedure. They are generally temporary, dissolving on their own within a month or so.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Dry Eye Syndrome
Apart from treating your dry eye syndrome, there are some ways to reduce your risk of getting it in the first place. This includes having a nutritious diet, keeping well hydrated, using a humidifier, and wearing wraparound sunglasses.
Focus on a Nutritious Diet and Stay Hydrated
A diet rich in vitamins and minerals supports all your body organs. Your eyes are no exception. Add to your daily meals foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, C, and E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Also, drink plenty of water throughout the day. This will keep your eyes hydrated by producing healthy tears.
Remove Your Eye Makeup
Your makeup habits can worsen your dry eyes syndrome. It’s essential to remove your eye makeup every night. Else, it may clog your tear ducts and oil glands, leading to eye irritation, infection, and dryness.
To remove your eye makeup, use a gentle lid scrub on a clean cotton pad. Avoid products containing paraben and mineral oil, as they are known to cause eye irritation.
Wear Protective Sunglasses
Sunglasses, especially the wraparound kind, can help keep your eyes lubricated for longer periods. They will prevent tear evaporation and reduce wind sensitivity.
What’s more, sunglasses keep UV rays from directly reaching your eye. They also shield your eyes from dust and dirt. So, don’t ditch your sunglasses while stepping outside, whether for a walk or grocery shopping.
Use a Humidifier
Another surefire way to reduce your risk of dry eyes is using a humidifier. It will add humidity to the air and prevent eye dryness. Place it in your bedroom at night and see the difference when you wake up.
At the same time, maintain a good distance from hairdryers. Hair dryers do the opposite of humidifiers for your eyes.
Build Healthy Habits
Some healthy habits for your eyes include working out, sleeping well, and blinking consciously while sitting in front of a screen.
Bad habits for your eyes include overusing digital devices, wearing contact lenses all the time, and smoking. Focus on building healthy habits and quitting the bad ones to combat eye dryness.
Hormonal changes in women and dry eyes go hand in hand. That means your monthly cycle, pregnancy, menopause, as well as contraceptives all affect your eyes.
Along with hormones, certain other factors, like autoimmune disorders, thyroid problems, and the use of cosmetics, also worsen dry eyes. These are the reasons why women are more prone to dry eyes than men.
But there are several measures you can take to manage and reduce your risk of dry eyes. Take an eye health supplement, use a warm compress, massage your eyelids, take medications, wear wraparound glasses, and build healthy everyday habits.
Keeping your eyes healthy takes a bit of work, but every bit of effort matters. After all, when your eyes are happy, living a happy life becomes so much easier.