How Female Hormones Estrogen and Progesterone Affect the Eyes

Woman Suffers Dry EyeLadies, did you know that hormones are primarily responsible for changes in your vision after age 40? It shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, hormones can influence your mood, weight, sex drive and energy level, so why shouldn’t they impact your eyesight? May is Women’s Health Month, so let’s explore how hormones can change a woman’s vision from puberty through menopause.

High Estrogen Levels May Cause Nearsightedness

Estrogen can cause vision changes at several points in a woman’s lifetime. During puberty, the surge in estrogen can affect distance vision and can cause nearsightedness. During menstruation, estrogen levels elevate, and some women complain of vision problems and watery eyes during this time. During pregnancy, increased estrogen and progesterone levels can cause blurred vision and focusing problems. Vision changes are also typical after a hysterectomy, but eyesight often stabilizes with hormone replacement therapy.

Estrogen Fluctuations May Cause Dry Eye

Changes in estrogen levels can also result in dry eye, a condition caused by lack of tears. Women who are menopausal are at increased risk for dry eye, and medications like antihistamines and antidepressants can exacerbate the condition. Dry eye is treatable with prescription medications that increase tear production. Some women, however, find relief from over-the-counter artificial tears that help lubricate and moisturize the eye.

How to Maintain Healthy Vision

Hormone-related vision changes during menstruation and pregnancy are usually temporary, but some that occur in puberty and menopause are irreversible. To keep your vision as healthy as possible, there are a few steps you can take:

  1. Visit an ophthalmologist for annual comprehensive eye exams or if you notice vision changes. Many insurance plans include yearly eye exams, so take advantage of this if you have the option. Eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration are asymptomatic in the early stages, so visit your ophthalmologist every year to be examined for these conditions. If you notice any changes in your vision or experience eye pain, make an appointment right away — even if it has been less than a year since your last appointment.
  2. Eat a diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains. A nutritious diet full of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, B, C, E and K and other antioxidants and minerals will nourish your eyes and keep your vision healthy. Avoid processed foods and foods with artificial sweeteners.
  3. Talk to an ophthalmologist about supplementing with evening primrose oil, borage, flax seed or other nutritional supplements that will strengthen your vision and promote eye health.

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