During menopause, levels of hormones like oestrogen decline, which can have an impact on a woman’s health – including her eyes. However, because eyesight can deteriorate naturally with age, it can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between age-related eye problems and those linked specifically with menopause.

Plus, while other symptoms of menopause like hot flushes, insomnia, and reduced libido are widely known about, recent research from a campaign led by Vision Express found that 86% of women are unaware of the connection between eye health and menopause.

With this in mind, we’ll unravel the link between eye health and menopause, and cover what to look out for.

What’s the link between eye health and menopause?

What’s the link between eye health and menopause

During menopause, various changes take place in a woman’s body due to reduced production of oestrogen, progesterone, and androgen in the ovaries.

While every woman experiences menopause differently, some of the most common symptoms include hot flushes, insomnia, and brain fog. And research has also identified a clear link between menopause and eye health.

Declining hormone levels impact eyes by affecting things like oil glands, eye lubrication, elasticity, light sensitivity – and even eye shape.

While some women may not notice many – or any – changes at all, for others menopausal eye symptoms can have a significant impact on quality of life. According to research from the Society for Women’s Health Research, 61% of menopausal women suffer from symptoms like dry, itchy eyes.

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5 eye problems linked with menopause

5 eye problems linked with menopause

Every woman experiences menopause differently, but some of the most common associated eye problems include…

1. Dry eye syndrome

One of the most common eye conditions caused by menopause is dry eye syndrome, which occurs when the eyes stop producing tears as they usually would. This can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms including a gritty or itchy feeling in eyes, temporary blurred vision (that improves when you blink), and light sensitivity.

While dry eye syndrome can affect anyone, research has found that it most commonly affects women – particularly those going through menopause.

This is because the hormones oestrogen and androgen play a key role in producing and draining tears – which are needed to lubricate eyes, protect against infection, and stabilise vision. Oestrogen also helps to maintain the health of the nerves located behind the clear outer layer at the front of the eye (cornea). As a result, declining levels can lead to dry eyes, irritation, and inflammation.

Factors like smoking, wearing contact lenses, looking at electronic screens for long periods of time, and climates with dry air (for example, strong air conditioning) can exacerbate dry eye syndrome. For this reason, the NHS advises taking steps such as avoiding screen fatigue, using a humidifier to prevent air becoming dry, and choosing glasses instead of contact lenses where possible.

Over-the-counter treatments, such as lubricating eye drops, can also help to relieve symptoms. For further information about treatments available, it’s worth speaking to a pharmacist, who’ll be able to advise you on whether or not you need to see an optician or GP. You can search for your local pharmacy on the NHS website.

2. Changes in eye shape

While often only slight, research has found that it’s possible for your eyes to change shape during menopause. This is largely due to the fact that fluctuating hormone levels can affect eye pressure.

Changes in eye shape can make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable, affect your ability to focus, cause eyes to become tired more easily, and increase the need for corrective lenses when reading. So, if you’ve noticed your contact lenses irritating your eyes more recently, this could be due to menopause.

Studies have also found that the curvature of the cornea can steepen slightly and change the type of prescription you need. For this reason, it’s important to book an eye test if you have any concerns.

3. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the optic nerve (which is responsible for connecting the eyes to the brain) becomes damaged. Over time, this can lead to a progressive loss of peripheral vision, as well as other symptoms like blurred vision and seeing rainbow-coloured circles in bright lights. Though, symptoms can sometimes take years to appear.

Glaucoma is most common in people in their 70s and 80s, however, research has also drawn a link between the condition and menopause. This is due to the impact that fluctuating hormone levels have on eye pressure – particularly intraocular pressure (IOP), which is a measure of the pressure of fluid within the eye. According to research, increased IOP is one of the leading causes of glaucoma.

Studies also suggest that a loss of oestrogen caused by early menopause (typically between the age of 40 and 45) can increase the risk of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG). And, an NHS study found that POAG risk is lower in women who enter menopause after the age of 54.

Treatment options will depend on the type of glaucoma you have, but can include eye drops to reduce pressure in the eyes, laser treatment, and surgery to improve drainage of fluid.

If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to vision loss, so it’s important to book an eye test or speak to your GP if you have any concerns. People aged 40+ with a close relative with glaucoma are entitled to a free NHS eye examination every year to catch any changes as soon as possible.

4. Eye irritation and inflammation

Research has found that menopause can trigger blepharitis, which is a condition that causes the eyelids to become itchy and swollen. This is because when levels of the hormone androgen decrease, it can impact the function of eyelid glands and cause them to become irritated and inflamed.

Symptoms of blepharitis include red eyes, light sensitivity, a burning sensation, a gritty feeling in the eyes, and eyelids sticking together in the morning when you first wake up.

pharmacist will be able to suggest things to help keep your eyelids clean, including eye drops, eye pads, and wipes. However, if your symptoms don’t improve after a few weeks, it’s important to see your GP.

5. Cataracts

Cataracts is a condition that causes a clouding of the lens of the eye. People with cataracts may have trouble reading, driving, seeing in lower lights, and perceiving colours, as well as experiencing problems with glare.

While a direct link between cataract development and menopause is yet to be made, we do know from research that the condition is more common in postmenopausal women than men of the same age.

Some studies have suggested that menopausal hormone changes may play a role in the formation and progression of cataracts. One reason for this is because oestrogen is responsible for helping eye lenses stay clear and hydrated, so reduced levels may increase the risk of them becoming cloudy. However, further research is needed to confirm any findings.

If you’re worried about cataracts, it’s important to book an eye test. If your optician suspects you may have cataracts, they’ll refer you to an eye specialist for further tests and treatment.

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How can I take care of my eye health during menopause?

How can I take care of my eye health during menopause

Because menopause can increase your risk of a number of eye conditions, it’s important to do what you can to take care of your eye health. We’ll cover some of the main things to consider below.

Get regular eye tests

When it comes to eye health – during menopause and beyond – one of the most important steps to take is to get your eyes tested regularly. Research estimates that more than 75% of cases of vision loss are preventable if caught early. And because many eye conditions show no symptoms in the early stages, having regular eye tests can help to identify them as soon as possible.

Eat foods that are good for eye health

Our diet also plays a key role in how well our bodies function – and that includes our eyes. Staying hydrated and eating a diet rich in healthy fats like omega-3s and beneficial nutrients like vitamin A, C, E, zinc, and fibre is a great place to start.

Carotenoids (fat-soluble pigments), like lutein and zeaxanthin, have also been shown to have eye-protecting properties. Eggs, dark leafy greens, and yellow-fleshed fruits like mangoes and apricots are particularly good sources of carotenoids. Check out our article, 10 most important nutrients for eye health, for more advice.

Quit smoking

On the other hand, unhealthy lifestyle factors like smoking have been found to have a negative effect on eye health. In fact, smoking has been identified as a risk factor for various eye issues including cataracts, glaucoma, dry eye syndrome, and optic nerve problems.

If you’d like some support for quitting smoking, head over to the stop smoking services on the NHS website.

Additional ways to protect your eyes

Other protective measures like wearing good-quality sunglasses, taking regular screen breaks to rest your eyes, and investing in products like eyelid wipes or a humidifier if you suffer from conditions like blepharitis or dry eye syndrome can also be useful.

For a more in-depth guide on how to take care of your eye health during menopause, you might like to check out our articles; 9 ways to keep your eyes healthy and 10 age-related eye problems you should know about.

What’s the link between hormone replacement therapy and eye health?

Current research into hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a treatment for eye problems caused by menopause is limited – and some studies have even suggested it may worsen symptoms of conditions like dry eye syndrome.

For this reason, if you’re struggling with an eye problem, it’s important to speak to a pharmacist or your GP about treatment options before making any decisions. Where necessary, they may also be able to offer you over-the-counter relief, such as eye drops, to help ease your symptoms.

Final thoughts…

Menopause is a transitional time in a woman’s life and can bring about a number of changes – including to eye health.

However, while many of these changes can cause discomfort and frustration, the good news is that there are steps you can take to help improve your symptoms and protect your long-term eye health.

For further reading and advice, head over to the menopause section of our website. Here, you’ll find information on everything from menopause in the workplace to ways to sleep better. You might also be interested in Revive Active’s menopause supplement, Meno Active. Full of menopause-friendly vitamins and minerals, Meno Active is specifically designed to support healthy bones, brain function, and energy regulation.

Have you experienced any eye problems during menopause? What steps have you taken to help manage your symptoms? We’d be interested to hear from you in the comments below.