Finding it tough to read, drive and focus on the most basic of tasks? Come to think of it, your eyes feel gritty, itchy and comfortable. The good news is that dry eyes are usually nothing to cry about.
You might be surprised to learn that one of the lesser-known symptoms of the menopause is dry eyes. It affects around 10% of women as they experience the menopause and is caused by an issue with the production of tears, or when your tears are ineffective.
We all have a tear film covering and lubricating the surface of our eyes. It’s made up of a complex mixture of water, oil and mucus, keeping the eyes moist. Without it, the eyes can feel gritty – like there’s something in there. It can also lead to stinging, burning, blurred vision and irritation.
Dry eyes are a common symptom of ageing, but it can become worse in the menopause. This is due to the decrease in oestrogen and androgens (the male hormone that all women have).
Our advice and guidance
You needn’t battle through the discomfort of dry eyes, as there’s a wide range of things you can do to help ease this symptom.
Like most menopause symptoms, dry eyes tend to improve with time. But if you’re worried about this symptom or your eyes get worse, don’t hesitate to speak to your GP.
Staying clear of things that irritate your eyes can help – air conditioning, allergies and being out in the wind can all lead to dry eyes. Some women find that contact lenses also lead to dry eyes. Luckily, there’s wraparound sunglasses to help protect your eyes while you’re outside.
Limit screen time and lower screens
Our laptops, smartphones and TVs each hold a lot of appeal. After all, they’re how we check up on our friends or wind down after a busy day at work. But cutting back on screen time can help prevent eye strain and dryness.
Lowering your computer screen means your eyelids are lower and you reduce the surface area that tears evaporate from.
You might be surprised to know that you can buy these, and lubricating ointments, from your local chemist. If you don’t feel any improvement, speak to your GP. If you symptoms are severe, you may need a referral to an eye specialist.
Drink plenty of fluids
And no, alcohol doesn’t count, as it can be dehydrating. Making sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day can help.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
While the jury is still out, some studies suggest HRT can be beneficial for treating dry eyes. It’s worth talking to your doctor about the benefits and risks of HRT if you’re considering it.
Our advice to them
In terms of self-care, we’ve recommended that they stay hydrated, avoid irritants, and limit their screen time. They could also pick up some artificial tears from their local pharmacy to help maintain moisture on the eyes’ outer surface.
Encourage them to speak to their gp about HRT
Hormone Replacement Therapy – HRT for short – essentially does what it says on the tin. It replaces the hormones that their body is naturally losing due to the menopause, helping reduce symptoms, including dry eyes.
There are a number of ways she can take HRT medications, including tablets, patches and creams. Most women can take HRT but there are some risks, which their doctor will discuss with them.
You could even offer to go to the appointment with them to show your support.
Suggest a supplement
Natural eye drops containing the herb eyebright, drinking nettle tea or taking extra vitamin C may help with itchy eyes and skin too.
So why not gently ask if they have tried taking anything like that?
Ask them to explain
Don’t assume you know what their dry eyes feel like. Gently ask them to explain the effect it is having on them physically and emotionally.
You may not be able to do anything to make them feel better. But they may not want answers, they may just need to talk – and be properly heard. Switch your listening ears on and give them your full attention
If you’re worried about dry eyes, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you’d like more information, we have put some further references below for you: