Menopause is associated with a range of side effects as a woman’s hormones find their way back into balance. In addition to the infamous hot flashes, mood swings, or weight gain, many women experience dry eyes after menopause.
The changes in hormone levels leading to menopause cause changes all over the body. This includes changes in the meibomian and lacrimal glands located in the eyelids. These oil- and fluid-generating glands work to keep eyes moist, hydrated, and flushed free of environmental irritants.
However, during and after menopause, these glands may experience irritation or produce less oil/fluid than before, leading to irritated and inflamed eyelids or symptoms of dry eyes.
- The feeling that eyes are continuously dry
- Scratchy or gritty feeling
- Red, irritated eyes that aren’t associated with infection
- Excessive tearing
- Light sensitivity
- The urge to regularly rub your eyes
Finding Relief From Dry Eyes After Menopause
You can do several things to relieve dry eyes associated with menopause.
Speak to your OB/GYN
Make sure to honor your annual women’s wellness exams. As with annual eye exams, women’s wellness exams give you a chance to check in with your physician and discuss any noticeable changes in your body. In addition, if you’re experiencing menopause symptoms that affect daily life, they may recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which works to rebalance hormones, providing relief from menopause-related side effects gently. This can also help to reduce or eliminate post-menopausal dry eyes.
Take a break from contacts & other eye irritants
Contact lenses exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Switch back to glasses for a while as you move through these other tips for dry eyes after menopause. Managing allergies and protecting your eyes from potential environmental irritants also supports relief from dry eyes.
Use preservative-free artificial tears
Often, routine use of preservative-free artificial tears prevents dry eye symptoms from progressing. By giving lagging oil/fluid glands a little boost, you’ll keep your eyes from becoming dry enough to become a problem. We like Systane, Refresh, and RAIN eyedrops because their preservative-free formulas are gentle and prevent the potential irritation of additives or chemicals.
Establish healthy sleep habits
Insomnia or sleep disturbance is another common side effect of perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause) and postmenopausal life. Establishing healthy sleep habits helps combat this, and the less fatigued you are during the day, the less prone you are to dry eye symptoms.
Some of the most important ways to ensure a good night’s sleep include:
- Trying to be consistent with sleep and wake times
- Establishing a soothing and calm “bedtime routine” that helps the brain prepare for rest time
- Turning off all screens at least 30 minutes before you go to bed
- Minimizing outside lights during the night (keep night lights in the red light spectrum to keep melatonin production at the normal/healthy levels)
- Minimize alcohol intake (this also helps to reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and unstable blood sugar levels)
- Switch to decaffeinated beverages after noon
- Use relaxing aromatherapy and relaxation apps with guided sleep-friendly visualizations
Sleep time is also when your body does the most to produce and regulate hormone production, not to mention process the day’s information, so getting a good night’s sleep is beneficial in every aspect of your life.
Eat well and stay hydrated
Are you noticing a theme? Healthy lifestyle habits promote overall physical well-being. You are truly what you eat, so choose well. There are a gazillion fad diets and sustainable diets. We’re fans of anti-inflammatory diets like the Mediterranean diet because reducing inflammation in the body is one of the best things you can do to prevent and manage it.
However, women in menopause should discuss other options with their doctors. We recommend visiting the Cleaveland Clinic’s article Menopause Diet: What to Eat to Help Manage Symptoms for specific guidelines that may also prevent or provide relief from post-menopausal dry eyes. You won’t be surprised that the general gist is to:
- Eat meals that focus on colorful veggies and high-fiber grains
- Prioritizing lean and healthy protein sources
- Reducing or eliminating the intake of fast foods, processed foods, and refined sugars
- Making water the mainstay of your hydration
- Look for soy-based products, which have phytoestrogens that help regulate female hormone levels (women who eat soy-based products like soy milk, tofu, edamame, etc., tend to have fewer and less severe menopause symptoms)
We want to emphasize that last bullet point; dehydration directly impacts dry eye and makes it worse. So stay hydrated and give your body the chance to produce the oils and fluids necessary to soothe and cleanse the eyes.
Ask about menopause-supportive supplements
We also encourage you to ask your OB or general physician about supplements shown to support menopause. These include things like:
- Vitamin d
- Black cohosh
- Maca powder (a great addition to healthy morning smoothies)
- Wild yam
- St John’s wort
- Red Clover
- Dong Quai
Always check with your physician before taking any new supplements to ensure they are right for you and that there are no contraindications for other medications or treatments you’re taking.
Use a humidifier to try and help with dry eyes after menopause
Consider using a portable humidifier if you live in a dry climate or your HVAC system doesn’t include a whole-home humidifying feature. Our bodies like to be in humidity levels between 40% to 60%. If your home or workplace humidity levels fall below this, it exacerbates dry eye.
Schedule An Appointment With An Optometrist
If these tips aren’t effective and are suffering from post-menopausal dry eyes, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your optometrist.
We’ll examine your eyes, listen to what you’re experiencing, review what you’ve tried so far to get relief from menopause-related dry eyes, and then take it from there. We may prescribe prescription strength drops or ointments that go beyond the relief provided by over-the-counter artificial tears. Contact Atlantic Eye Institute, at (904) 241-7865, and take that first step toward long-term dry eye relief!