Dry Eye Disease and Your Menstrual Cycle: What You Need to Know
When periods come knocking at your door, they can bring with them a range of physical and emotional challenges, from cramps and bloating to mood swings and sweet cravings.
But the list doesn’t end here. Some women also experience dry eye symptoms during their monthly cycle. Blame it on hormonal fluctuations that disrupt the normal functioning of the oil and tear glands.
The result? Dry, gritty, and puffy eyes even as you’re enduring stomach cramps and shoveling down chocolate ice cream.
But what’s the link between your menstrual cycle hormones and dry eye syndrome? In this post, we’ll help you understand that as well as the other causes of why women are more prone to having dry eyes than men.
The Link Between Dry Eyes and Menstrual Cycle
From periods to pregnancy and menopause, women’s hormones, especially estrogen, are constantly fluctuating. Estrogen takes care of the development and maintenance of the female reproductive system. It plays a role in your tear production too.
But as with everything, balance is key. Research shows that the rise in estrogen affects your eyes and can leave them feeling dried out. High estrogen suppresses the function of your tear glands. This causes inflammation, a decrease in tear production, and surface dryness.
Your monthly cycle comes with surges and dips in estrogen. So, be prepared to experience symptoms like dry, puffy, and irritated eyes off and on.
That said, not every day of your period will make your eyes dry. Some days will be better, some worse.
Your menstrual cycle has various overlapping phases:
- Menstruation – This is the bleeding phase. Dry eye symptoms are less pronounced during this phase because your estrogen levels are at their lowest.
- Follicular phase – This phase begins on the first day of your menstruation and ends when ovulation occurs. It’s characterized by rising levels of estrogen. As estrogen levels peak, you’re most likely to experience dry eye symptoms.
- Ovulatory phase – During the ovulation period, the egg is released from your ovary. Some women find that their dry eye symptoms improve during this phase.
- Luteal phase – This is the phase after the egg is released, and it lasts until menstruation. Since your body produces more estrogen during the luteal phase, dry eye symptoms may begin again.
It’s important to note that not all women experience dry eyes during the different menstrual cycle phases. Some women find that their symptoms are worse when estrogen levels are low. Dry eyes is also influenced by other factors like health conditions, diet, and lifestyle.
Why Is Dry Eyes Disease More Common in Women?
Did you know that women are twice as likely as men to get dry eyes? There are several reasons for this, apart from your monthly cycle. These include pregnancy, menopause, use of birth control pills, and more.
Use of Oral Contraceptives
If you’re taking birth control pills, you probably know that they may come with dry eye side effects. That’s because these pills contain synthetic hormones, generally a combination of estrogen and progestin.
When you take birth control pills, your body’s hormone balance is disrupted. As a result, your eyes will feel dry and irritated.
Birth control pills are just one of a dozen medications that can cause dry eyes.
Your body goes through a rollercoaster ride during pregnancy. You will experience a significant increase in estrogen levels. This increase can affect the normal functioning of your tear glands. Dry and gritty eyes will most likely follow first.
Morning sickness and vomiting in early pregnancy can lead to dehydration. Since your tear film is partly composed of water, dehydration can also cause dry eye symptoms.
In stark contrast to dehydration, some women retain fluids during pregnancy. This affects the tissues in and around the eyes and leads to puffiness and dryness.
During menopause, your estrogen production goes down. This leads to changes in your tear film, whose quantity and quality decreases.
Menopause typically occurs after the age of 45 according to the World Health Organization. As you age, your risk of developing dry eyes increases. This combination of age-related factors and hormonal changes also contributes to dry eye symptoms in women.
Stress and Anxiety
Females are more prone to negative emotions than males. According to a 2022 study, they tend to experience more frequent bouts of stress and anxiety.
But what has that got to do with dry eyes? There is a connection and a strong one at that. Findings from a 2023 study suggest that stress and anxiety can significantly increase your risk of developing dry eye syndrome.
Changes in Lifestyle
Pregnancy, menopause, and even your periods can bring important changes to your lifestyle by altering your sleep pattern, diet, and stress levels.
For instance, you may have sudden cravings for chocolate and sugary drinks. The problem is that artificial sugars affect your eye health and may indirectly contribute to dry eyes.
In addition to hormones, your eye makeup may also be the hidden culprit behind your dry eyes. Products like mascara, eyeshadow, and eyeliner can easily flake and cause irritation. Removing these involves rubbing the delicate skin around your eyes, worsening the irritation.
What’s more, certain ingredients in your makeup can also trigger an allergic reaction. To say nothing about using expired or contaminated products.
Tip: Check out our makeup tips for dry and sensitive eyes.
How to Manage Menstruation-Related Dry Eyes?
When your periods are responsible for your dry eyes, it’s best to address both your dry eye disease and hormonal changes.
- Massage your eyelids – Apply a warm compress over your eyes and gently massage your eyelids. This combination of heat and massage will stimulate your oil and tear glands. As a result, the symptoms of estrogen-triggered dry eyes won’t be as noticeable.
- Manage stress – Go on quiet walks, practice yoga, or find a corner to meditate. Since stress and anxiety can worsen your dry eye symptoms, managing them can work wonders for you, especially during the menstrual cycle days.
- Drink plenty of fluids – Fluid intake will balance out any loss of water and nutrients during your periods. You may also want to avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can dehydrate you.
- Get enough sleep – To help your body cope with fatigue and other menstrual symptoms, make sure to get plenty of rest. Resting will give your overworked eyes a break and keep them better lubricated.
- Avoid cosmetic products – Makeup around your eyes can worsen your dry eyes during menstruation. It’s best to embrace your natural, makeup-free self around this time.
- Consider hormone management – If dry eye symptoms during your menstrual cycle are particularly bothersome, consider opting for hormone management. This could keep your estrogen levels in check and bring relief from hormone-related dry eyes.
- Take an eye health supplement – An eye health supplement can provide your eyes and tear glands with the essential nutrients they need to function at their best. SightC is a natural superfood blend that brings together antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that your eyes may lack because of the limitations of the Western diet. Learn more about SightC Natural Dry Eye Supplement.
The Wrap Up
Being a woman during the menstruation cycle isn’t a walk in the park. Cramps and mood swings aside, your eyes often bear the real brunt of your periods.
They may turn dry, gritty, and inflamed. The severity and duration of these symptoms depend on the specific phase of your menstruation cycle. When the estrogen levels peak, your symptoms are generally worse.
Other factors, like stress during your periods, poor sleep, dehydration, and alcohol consumption can make things more difficult.
But don’t worry. If dry eye symptoms come and go during your menstrual cycle, there are ways to manage them too. Eye massages, drinking plenty of water, getting proper sleep, and meditating are your friends.