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Why Dry Eye Affects Women More Than Men

Dry eye disproportionately affects women, and they are diagnosed at a younger age and have more extreme symptoms compared to men.

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While dry eye (also known as dry eye syndrome) is an increasingly common ailment, especially among people aged 50 and up, women are observed to suffer from it more often than men. The obvious question, of course, is why.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal Changes

Women’s hormone levels fluctuate throughout their lives, for a number of reasons. These hormonal changes have been shown to make dry eye more likely, as the fluctuations of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, along with other hormones, impact tear production and quality. In particular, high estrogen levels and low testosterone levels contribute to dry eye syndrome.

In particular, some things which impact hormones are likely to also impact dry eye symptoms:

  • Monthly cycle: Estrogen levels are at their highest point during the first half of womens’ monthly cycle. Because of this, dry eye symptoms may be more severe during the days soon after menstruation.
  • Pregnancy: Hormonal changes during pregnancy may lead to dry eye, among other vision changes. Additionally, in early pregnancy, morning sickness and vomiting can cause dehydration, which also affects the moisture levels in the eyes.
  • Oral contraceptives: Dry eyes are a well known side effect of many oral contraceptives. This is because they lower the body’s androgen levels, which may negatively impact both the quality and quantity of tears produced.
  • Menopause: Menopause causes many hormonal changes in the body, and is therefore a very common cause of dry eyes in women over the age of 50. In fact, approximately 61 percent of perimenopausal and menopausal women are affected by dry eyes.
  • Hormone replacement therapy: Approximately 38 percent of post-menopausal women in the United States use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage their menopausal symptoms. HRT is strongly linked to dry eye syndrome.
Makeup

Makeup

Women who regularly wear eye makeup such as mascara or eyeliner, have a higher risk of developing dry eye. This is due to the ingredients found in these products which can irritate the eyes. Additionally, makeup removers often contain oils and chemicals which can thin the tear film covering the eyes, which causes tears to evaporate early.

 

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How Can Women Reduce Their Risk of Dry Eye?

How Can Women Reduce Their Risk of Dry Eye?

While women remain at higher risk for developing dry eye, there are some things they can do to reduce that risk:

  • Remove eye makeup using a gentle soap or a paraben-free makeup remover.
  • If you use a hairdryer, try to avoid aiming it toward the eyes, as that can cause tears to evaporate.
  • Avoid applying eye makeup to the inner parts of the eyelid
  • Always discuss eye health history and potential side effects with your primary caregiver before you start on any medication.
  • Drink plenty of water to remain well-hydrated.
  • Use lubricating eye drops to relieve dryness when necessary.
  • Use a humidifier in your home or workplace to reduce dryness in the air.
  • Wear protective eyewear, such as sunglasses, while outdoors to protect the eyes from irritants like wind and dust.
  • Eat foods rich in Omega-3s or take Omega-3 supplements to improve tear quality.
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Common Questions

Yes, typically older females going through menopause are more prone to having dry eyes than others. Also people taking certain medications such as anxiety medications, antidepressants, antihistamines, antipsychotics, anti-muscle spasm medications, Accutane, beta blockers, contraceptives, as well as certain diuretic medications, are more prone to have dry eyes. Also people who are contact lens wearers who don’t properly take care of their contacts or are wearing contacts with low oxygen permeability may be more prone to dry eyes. Additionally, people who tend to work on a digital screen for a prolonged period of time can increase their risk of dry eyes.
Yes, when we perform tasks that require high visual concentration, such as staring at a computer screen, reading, or writing for a prolonged period of time, this results in us blinking less, causing dry eyes. Additionally, some other everyday activities that can cause dry eyes are using a hair dryer, not drinking enough water, sitting in front of the office air-conditioner or fan, wearing eye makeup, working in extreme temperatures, wind blowing in your face, or being surrounded by cigarette smoke.
Why Dry Eye Affects Women More Than Men
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Summary

Dry eye syndrome, a common ailment particularly prevalent among individuals over 50, affects women more frequently than men due to numerous factors. Hormonal fluctuations, specifically changes in estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone levels, significantly impact tear production and quality. High estrogen and low testosterone levels, in particular, exacerbate the condition. Dry eye symptoms can vary due to different stages in women's lives, such as during their monthly cycle, pregnancy, menopause, or while taking oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Regular use of eye makeup and makeup removers containing irritants and chemicals can also lead to dry eye. Despite their heightened risk, women can mitigate the symptoms of dry eye by implementing various strategies. These include the careful removal of makeup, staying hydrated, using lubricating eye drops, maintaining a well-humidified environment, protecting eyes outdoors, and consuming Omega-3-rich foods or supplements.

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