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menopause and your eyes

It’s no surprise that our bodies change as we age, and those age-related changes also affect your eyes and vision health. For example, while less than 40% of the population wears prescription lenses by the age of 25, roughly 80% of people wear glasses at or around their 50th birthday (researchgate.net). 

There are several reasons for this. However, due to the significant changes women experience during menopause, women are more likely to need glasses than men, and they also have a higher risk for other issues affecting their eyes and vision.

Common Issues During And After Menopause And Your Eyes

These age-related eye changes are largely linked to genetics (family vision history) as well as lifestyle (more on that later). For women, vision changes typically occur due to the natural hardening of the eyes’ lenses, which causes nearsightedness – as well as changes in estrogen levels and resulting collagen depletion. 

How Do You Know When You’re In Menopause?

51 is the average age for menopause in the U.S., which is diagnosed when a woman hasn’t had a period for twelve consecutive months. However, menopause symptoms and related eye/vision effects begin years prior when women enter perimenopause (premenopause). 

Perimenopause can last anywhere from three to ten years and is the time when women tend to experience the most significant symptoms/side effects, like:

  • Night sweats.
  • Hot flashes.
  • Moodiness or irritability.
  • Slower metabolism (weight goes on easily and is harder to get rid of).
  • Irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Diminished sexual libido.
  • Pain or discomfort during sex (often linked to diminished lubrication, which also triggers dry eye symptoms).
  • Loss of bone density.
  • Changes in eye and vision health.

Some of the most common eye or vision issues linked to menopause are:

Nearsightedness (myopia)

The increase in nearsightedness as we age is due to a natural hardening of the eye’s lenses. In most cases, it’s impossible to avoid this phenomenon, which is why the large majority of the 50+ population needs assistance when reading or working on a computer. 

This lens hardening results from the tightening of the eye muscles due to age-related loss of elasticity. The tighter the eye muscles become, the harder the lenses and the blurrier things look close up. This is the reason why LASIK or other surgical treatments for vision loss won’t completely correct nearsightedness in older patients. 

Menopause and your eyes becoming dry

Decreasing estrogen and progesterone levels also decrease hydration of the mucosal linings, including the eye. For this reason, women aged 50 and older are more susceptible to dry eye symptoms, especially while working on screens. 

There are several things you can do to prevent or minimize symptoms, including:

  • Keeping preservative-free lubricating drops on hand (purse, backpack, car, desk drawers, nightstand table, etc.). 
  • Drinking plenty of fluids (prioritizing water and minimizing caffeinated or alcoholic beverages).
  • Focusing on foods that support eye health (essential fatty acids, Vitamins C, E, & A, Zinc, Lutein & Zeaxanthin).
  • Avoid rubbing the eyes.

Finally, if dry eye becomes more of a consistent problem than an occasional nuisance, schedule an appointment with your optometrist if more significant treatments are needed.

Diabetic retinopathy & other health-related vision issues

Some of the most common vision issues for adults 55+ are directly linked to their overall health. Examples include:

These conditions and others are leading causes of serious vision loss, which is why annual or bi-annual (depending on your medical history) visits to the optometrist are so important. The earlier we detect red flags, the sooner we can treat the problem and preserve your visions to the best of our ability.

Age-related macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in older adults. And, two-thirds of those with macular degeneration are women. This is largely because women tend to live longer than men. Even so, paying attention to your lifestyle choices and responsibly managing existing health conditions goes a long way towards preventing or avoiding AMD altogether.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices That Protect Vision After Menopause

The good news is that whether or not you develop any of the above conditions or the degree to which you experience them is almost entirely within your control. Your lifestyle choices matter now more than ever.

Speak to your physician and optometrist about an eye-healthy diet

We mentioned some of the most important nutrients to focus on when preventing dry eye – as well as other eye conditions. Diet is fundamental to your general health and the foundation for eye and vision health.

Speak to your physician and optometrist about your diet and whether or not they recommend any changes. In almost all cases, you can begin focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet, which contains foods that support health, weight management, and vision. They may also recommend specific supplements to support your goals.

Establish healthy sleep patterns

Women in menopause have a harder time falling asleep – or staying asleep – as the result of hormonal surges that occur during the nighttime hours. This can cause varying side effects, from night sweats and a pounding heart to full-blown insomnia.

The more you do to support healthy sleep patterns, the better. This includes things like:

  • Establishing daily wake and sleep times.
  • Avoiding stimulants for at least five hours before bedtime (caffeine, sugar, alcohol, nicotine, etc.)
  • Creating a soothing nighttime ritual
  • Dimming the lights and turning off all screens at least 30 minutes before heading to bed.
  • Keeping phones and gadgets out of the bedroom.

By creating a bedroom space and routine that supports healthy sleep, you benefit from more energy, a higher metabolism, mood regulation, and immune system boosting (and that’s just the start of what a good night’s sleep does for you). 

Create an inspiring exercise routine

Recent studies have shown that adults who prioritize regular, moderate exercise have a notably lower risk of developing the eye conditions listed in this post. If the thought of regular exercise makes you roll your eyes or immediately hit the fridge, we get it. But take heart; it’s not a sign that you’re lazy. That tells us you haven’t found the exercise or fitness routine that inspires you.

Not all of us were meant to spend time in a gym or run marathons, but we are all designed to be physically active, and our sedentary lifestyle takes its toll on our health. Think outside the box and find ways to move that inspire you or that feel fun. For example:

  • Dance it out in the living room or wherever you feel comfortable moving to your favorite tunes.
  • Walk your dog while waiting for your kids to get out of their extracurricular activities (or walk/jog/bike with your other kids, a friend, fellow parents who are waiting, etc.
  • Take an atypical exercise class like goat yoga, Zumba, or something else that gets you moving.
  • Start doing the plank pose and increase your time with every passing day. 
  • Join a dance class, martial arts group, or some other related endeavor that builds a skillset while also helping you stay fit.
  • Do a new type of YouTube exercise video every day. 
  • Find ways to incorporate low- to moderate exercise in your daily life.

Just 20 to 30 minutes a day, as often as possible, can help you live a more full, healthy, happy, and sighted life!

Schedule A Perimenopause Visit With The Atlantic Eye Institute

Are you experiencing symptoms of perimenopause? Schedule an appointment with the Atlantic Eye Institute. We’ll provide a complete eye exam and learn more about your experience. From there, we can make suggestions that help to prevent or diminish the effects of menopause on your eyes.

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