Dry Eyes After Menopause

Menopause is a time of enormous changes in a woman's body, from hot flashes to dry eyes.


Some of the more disagreeable symptoms of menopause are well known and clearly connected to hormonal change, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood changes.

Some of the symptoms of menopause are not as well known and not as clearly connected to hormonal change, such as dry eye.

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It is a problem caused by insufficient production of tears, which are amazingly complex biological structures. Produced by the mucous membranes and lacrimal cells near the tear ducts, tears are a combination of water, proteins, and fatty acids.

The fatty acid content of tears is what allows them to slide over the surface of the eye rather than simply evaporating or rolling down the cheeks.

After menopause, the tear ducts still release plenty of fluid, but this fluid does not adhere to the eye so the eyes are dry. (There are also conditions that usually occur after menopause, such as Sjögren's syndrome, that stop the production of fluid altogether, but these autoimmune diseases are not caused by menopause.)

Generally speaking, the dryer the eyes, the more severe the inflammation, but inflammation does not always cause red or bloodshot eyes.

Dry eyes are, however, extremely susceptible to bacterial and viral infections, and careful hygiene (especially not sharing towels or washcloths of persons who have eye infections) is essential.

Dryness is usually worse in dry weather, in desert climates, during the winter, and when the eyes are exposed to second hand tobacco smoke or air pollution. Dryness in the eyes can also result as a side-effect of medications to control the bladder and from hypothyroidism.

Women of Asian descent are more likely to have dry eye problems after menopause than women of European, Hispanic, Native American, or African descent.

There can also be "episodic dry eye" caused by prolonged tasks that discourage blinking. About 17% of all women over the age of 48 suffer dry eye problems.

Hormone replacement is not a very good remedy for dry eye problems after menopause, at least in women who are closer to age 50 than age 60.

After age 55, women who take estrogen-replacement therapy tend to have fewer problems with dryness and eye irritation than women who do not. Before age 55, however, estrogen-replacement therapy does not seem to make much a difference in the frequency of dry skin and eyes.

A better solution is flaxseed. As you probably know, flaxseed is a food. It is one of nature's best sources of n-3 essential fatty acids, which are the essential fatty acids the body uses to make anti-inflammatory hormones.

Brazilian clinical researchers have found that flaxseed oil is an effective treatment for the condition of dry, red, inflamed eyes known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca.

Brazilian women taking one or two 1,000-mg capsules of flaxseed oil every day for six months experienced a dramatic reduction in the redness and inflammation associated with dryness.

But the benefits of flaxseed oil are not limited to relieving irritation. Clinical researchers at the University of Melbourne in Australia have learned that taking supplemental flaxseed oil lowers the primary symptom of glaucoma, intraocular pressure.

It encourages the outflow of fluids from the eye, the same way diuretics do, but without the systemic effects of increased, often inconvenient, urination, and loss of electrolytes.

You don't have to take flaxseed oil to get the benefits of flaxseed. Ground flaxseed itself also works. Just be sure that you grind the flaxseed before you eat it—whole flaxseeds often pass straight through the digestive tract.

Also, be sure that you keep either flaxseed oil or flaxseed under refrigeration to keep their n-3 essential fatty acids safe from spoilage.


Return From Dry Eyes to Over 40 Vision