Dry Eyes at Menopause and Beyond

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

Are you aware that tear production tends to decrease as you get older? Well, that is the case. And, when you’re unable to produce enough tears, the clear tissue that covers the opening of your eye (cornea), or parts of it, begins to dry out. As a result, your eyes become easily irritated, and you may begin to suffer from symptoms of “Chronic Dry Eye.” The medical term for this condition is keratoconjunctivitis sicca (ker-uh-to-kun-junk-ti-VIE-tis sik-uh).

In Chronic Dry Eye, underlying changes to the health of the tear-producing glands can result in a change in the quantity and quality of the tears you make. This results in a tear film that can no longer provide enough nourishment or protection to the surface of your eye. This can lead to damage of your eye’s surface, which, in turn, can lead to the symptoms of Chronic Dry Eye.

Chronic Dry Eye and Menopause

In the United States, an estimated 10 million people suffer from Chronic Dry Eye, with the condition affecting women two to three times more than men. Now, add menopause to the mix and you have another factor to consider. Many women may not know that dry eyes are a frequent symptom of menopause.

The hormone changes associated with menopause may be responsible for this decrease in tear production and abnormal tear function. Normal aging, the use of certain medications, medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Scleroderma and Sjogren’s syndrome, chemical burns or eyelid deformities also may cause dry eye.

Symptoms of dry eyes may include:

  • A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
  • A sense that something is in your eyes
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Increased eye irritation from smoke or wind
  • Eye fatigue after short periods of reading

Why Tear Production is Important

Tears protect your eyes and lubricate them, and are an essential part of clear, comfortable vision. Tears reduce the risk of eye infection and, with each blink of the eyelids, help clear your eyes of any debris. When your eyes become irritated from dust or are bothered by wind, smoke or fumes, extra tears form to help wash away the foreign material.

However, dry eyes caused by decreased production of fluids from your tear glands can prevent tears from performing their useful functions and affect your vision. An imbalance in the substances that make up tears also can make your eyes become dry.

Besides creating a healthy surface on the cornea and lubricating the entire eye, a natural tear film works to fight infection, provides important nourishment and is vital for clear vision. When tear production is reduced over a long period of time, there is the likelihood of permanent damage and scarring to the front of the eye. Increased risk of infection and serious visual impairment may result in cases where the condition has gone untreated over time.

Currently, the most common treatment for dry eye is use of an artificial tear supplement. Now researchers are investigating a possible new medication that targets the underlying causes of dry eye, rather than just treating the symptoms themselves.

About the Trial

Women may be able to participate in the trial if they meet specific criteria, including:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Suffering from dry eye symptoms for at least six months, with no satisfactory relief
  • Taking no long-term medications for other eye disorders
  • At least one year since having your Lasik surgery, if applicable
  • Willing to discontinue use of contact lenses for the duration of the trial

Women who are interested in learning more about participating in this important research should click here or call 1-866-EYES DRY.