The eyes produce tears, which serve an important purpose of keeping the eye lubricated, preventing infections, and ensuring proper functioning of all parts of the eye. Tears are made up of three layers of lipids, water, and mucin. When one of these components is affected due to an underlying cause, it results in a condition called dry eye. Dry eye is a situation when the tears produced in your eyes are insufficient or not functional. This causes several different uncomfortable symptoms, and in rare cases, may lead to serious complications with your eyes. Although dry eyes may happen to anyone, certain groups of people are more prone to this condition. Among them are people who work constantly at the computer, people with certain health conditions, the elderly, and women.
Women have 200% more incidence of dry eye than men.
Why Women are prone to Dry Eyes
Research has shown that dry eye is more likely to occur in people above the age of 50. And, the risks are even higher for women over the age of 45, when they are about to have their menopause. When the body prepares for menopause, there are a lot of changes in hormones. The body starts to decrease the production of reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. A few symptoms of menopause like hot flashes are linked to the low production of estrogen. So, researchers in the past, assumed that decreased production of estrogen was also responsible for dry eyes. The exact manner in which hormones like androgens and estrogens influenced the production of tears was, however, unknown. Recent research, however, is indicating that the low production of androgens rather than estrogen may be a bigger reason of less or less effective tears. The production of androgens in the body are reduced after a certain age in both men and women. However, women have lower levels of androgens from the beginning. After menopausal age, these levels decrease even further. This might be causing an issue with tear production and thus, leading to dry eyes.
What you can do if you are in your Perimenopausal stage
If you are a woman around 45 years of age, when your body is preparing for menopause, you are at greater risk for dry eyes. It may help to know that dry eyes are caused by not just one, but a multitude of factors. They may involve a decrease in the production of tears, an increase in the evaporation of tears, or the tears not being very effective. Apart from the hormonal changes, various environmental factors are also responsible for the condition. You can control these factors to reduce your risk of acquiring the condition of dry eye.
- Dry weather in winter, wind, seasonal allergies – Protect your eyes with well-fitting sunglasses when you venture out in such weather.
- Indoor environment – If the air in your home is dry due to excess use of air-conditioners/heaters during the harsh Chicago winters, consider investing in a humidifier to keep the humidity levels good.
- Outdoor activities like running, boating, skiing, and hiking – if you enjoy a sport or any outdoor activity, invest in a good pair of protective sunglasses, so you can protect your eyes from the elements.
- Contact lenses – Though contact lenses do not cause dry eyes, in many cases contacts will exacerbate the existing symptoms. Talk to our eye doctor about special custom contacts, called scleral lenses, that are the ideal solution for someone with dry eyes.
- Excessive screen time – If you are mostly glued to your phone or computer, follow the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away. Basically, do not stare at a screen for long hours without blinking.
- Diet – Eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, nuts, soybeans, and flax.