Why Women Have Higher Risk for Dry Eye

Woman applies eye drops for dry eyesDry eye affects millions of Americans. Women, however, are at increased risk of developing the issue due to hormonal changes. Hormonal fluctuations, especially of estrogen during pregnancy and menopause, can cause a higher prevalence of the condition. There is also a higher rate of autoimmune inflammatory diseases in women, and these diseases are highly correlated with dry eye. During May, which is Women’s Health Month, let’s take a deeper look at the causes and symptoms of dry eye and how sufferers – especially women – can take steps to deal with the condition.

What Causes Dry Eye

Dry eye is a condition caused by a lack of basal tears, lubricating tears which are made of water, fatty oils and mucus. In a healthy eye, basal tears continuously moisturize the cornea and provide it with a layer of liquid protection from foreign bodies and particles. If the tear ducts do not produce sufficient basal tears, or if the composition of tears change, the condition of dry eye can develop.

Dry Eye Symptoms

Common symptoms of dry eye are stinging, burning, scratchiness, blurry vision, redness, pain, and alternating periods of excessive tearing and excessive dryness. It can cause the sensation that there is a foreign body in the eye or that the eyelids feel heavy.

How to Deal with Dry Eye

The incidence of dry eye increases with age, and it cannot always be prevented. However, steps can be taken to delay its progression:

  1. Avoid digital eye strain. Limit time in front of computers, smartphones, televisions and tablets. Staring at screens decreases blink rate and makes dry eye worse.
  2. Wear sunglasses and protective eyewear when outdoors. Windy, smoky or dusty environments can exacerbate dry eye symptoms, so shield your eyes from irritants.
  3. If you have mild dry eye symptoms, try using over-the-counter medications like artificial tears, gels and ointments to keep your eyes lubricated.
  4. If you smoke, quit today! Smoking intensifies dry eye and puts you at risk for other eye conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.
  5. Call your primary care physician. Ask your doctor to look at your current medications and suggest alternative medications if necessary. Some medications like antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, birth control pills, anxiety medication, hypertension medication and hormone replacement therapy can either cause or worsen dry eye.
  6. Most importantly, call your ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam. You can discuss your dry eye symptoms and evaluate various treatment options like dietary changes, vitamins, punctal plugs or medicated eye drops.

Related Articles:

Natural Ways to Relieve Dry Eye
How the 20-20-20 Rule Can Help With Digital Eye Strain
Eating for Optimal Eye Health