Dry eye is more common in women than men, with some studies finding that the prevalence of dry eye is twice as high in women compared to men, while others have found that it is 2.7 times higher in women. It is worth considering that the risk of dry eye increases with age, and as women tend to live longer than men, this could also contribute to the higher prevalence of dry eye in women.
It is important to understand what dry eyes are before we discuss why women suffer from them more than men. Dry eye is a multifactorial disease of the front ocular surface, characterized by a loss of equilibrium of the tear film, resulting in tear film instability. It can also cause ocular surface inflammation and damage.
What are the most common symptoms of dry eyes?
You may experience the following ocular symptoms:
- A burning and stinging sensation in your eyes
- Irritation in your eyes
- Gritty feeling in your eyes
- Fluctuation in your vision
- Overall eye discomfort
If you notice any of these symptoms or experience sudden changes in your vision and find it difficult for you to perform your daily activities, please schedule an eye exam with your eye doctor.
Take our dry eye assessment to see if your symptoms indicate that you are suffering from treatable dry eye disease.
Why are women more likely to suffer from dry eyes than men?
There are a variety of reasons why women are more likely than men to have dry eye, of those the most common reason is related to hormonal changes due to menopause, pregnancy, birth control, and monthly cycle.
- Hormonal Changes Cause Dry Eye - Females are more likely to suffer from dry eyes than males due to hormonal changes. Hormonal fluctuations can negatively impact tear production and quality. A number of events may affect hormone levels, thereby causing dry eyes, such as menstrual cycles, pregnancy, oral contraceptives, menopause and hormone replacement therapy.
- Makeup and dry eye - One reason why women may be more likely to experience symptoms of dry eyes compared to men is that women are more likely to wear makeup, and some of the products and ingredients in these makeup products can cause irritation to your eyes and even cause blockages to the oil glands that produce the protective layer in our tear film that prevents evaporation of our tears, this blockage of the meibomian glands is the most common reason that makeup can causing you to experience symptoms of dry eyes.
- Autoimmune and dry eye - There are a variety of autoimmune conditions that are known to cause dry eye, these conditions are all more common in women. These autoimmune diseases include Sjogren’s Syndrome, thyroid disease (including graves disease), lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Screen time and dry eye - When we use computers, phones, or tablets, we blink less often and less fully. This is a major cause of dry eye, as our eyes have excessive periods of time when they are not getting the hydration that they need. While women spend more time on phones than men, this particular point differs greatly by individual. If you are on a digital device for extended periods of time, speak with our eye doctor about strategies to prevent dry eye.
- Cosmetic procedures and dry eye - Women have a higher rate of cosmetic procedures that can cause dry eye such as lash extensions, eyeliner tattoos, and blepharoplasty. These elective procedures can either be a contributing factor to the worsening of symptoms, and in some cases be the direct cause of dry eye.
- Medication and dry eye - According to the Dry Eye Workshop Study, there are a variety of medications that contribute or directly cause dry eye. While some of them have equal use between males and females, others are much more likely to be used by females. These include NSAIDs such as Ibuprofen, allergy medications such as antihistamines, sleeping pills, antidepressants, and acne medications. If you are concerned that your medication may be contributing to your dry eye symptoms, schedule a dry eye exam with your eye doctor.
What can women do to alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes?
The most important thing to do to prevent or treat dry eye is to understand what is causing the condition so that it can be treated or prevented effectively. This is why we always recommend scheduling a dry eye evaluation.
The following are general guidelines that you can take, although we highly recommend scheduling a thorough evaluation before making any major lifestyle changes (as they may be unnecessary).
- Avoid wearing eye makeup: One way to reduce symptoms of dry eyes is to avoid wearing makeup on the inside of your eyelids, since that can further clog up your oil glands and exacerbate your symptoms.
- Use artificial tears: These can help moisturize the eyes and provide temporary relief from dry eye symptoms.
- Blink frequently: Blinking helps to spread tears over the surface of the eye, which can help to keep the eyes moist and comfortable.
- Use a humidifier: Dry air can worsen dry eye symptoms, so using a humidifier in your home or office can help to keep the air moist and reduce dry eye symptoms.
- Take frequent breaks from contact lens wear: If you wear contact lenses, take them out and give your eyes a break at least once a day.
- Use a warm compress: Applying a warm compress over your closed eyelids can help to loosen any oils that have become stuck in the glands that produce tears.
- Avoid rubbing your eyes: Rubbing your eyes can irritate the already dry surface of your eyes and make symptoms worse.
- Try over-the-counter eye drops: There are a variety of over-the-counter eye drops available that can help to lubricate the eyes and provide relief from dry eye symptoms.