The dry eye syndrome basically occurs when the eye is unable to produce enough moisture content. According to research, this condition is almost twice as prevalent in women than in men. According to the National Health Resource Center, 6 million women across the country are victims of this condition, as opposed to around 3 million men.
The medical community believes that the hormonal changes women go through are the reason for this disparity.
There are a number of situations in which the symptoms of dry eyes intensify in women. These are:
- Old age: This is because as age increases, the vulnerability to certain illnesses like diabetes and rheumatism increases too. These encourage the onset of dry eyes.
- Birth control pills/ estrogen-only/ estrogen and progesterone hormone replacement therapy: All three of these, in different risk percentages, causes dry eyes that if left untreated can lead to poor vision.
- Pregnancy: There are huge hormonal changes happening in the body, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy and also when women breastfeed their baby. The meibomian glands lining both the eyelids that create the oil secretion in tears are affected and an imbalance is caused in the composition of tears making them evaporate faster than normal.
- Menopause: The levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones fluctuate erratically and affect the functioning of the body, and this affects the eyes also.
- Certain health conditions: For example, premature ovarian failure or polycystic ovary syndrome affects the vision, adversely causing dry eyes in women.
- Changes in the thyroid gland functioning: Swelling, itching, excessive watering, dry eyes, retraction of the eyelids or profusion of the eyeballs are few of the early symptoms of thyroid imbalance.
- Graves’ disease: This is an immune system disorder associated with the thyroid gland. It results in the production of an antibody that encourages the thyroid gland to malfunction. This then leads to inflammation, redness, pink eye, eyelid retraction, bulging eyes and pain/ache in the eyes. A severe case of this illness can also result in double vision or loss of eyesight.
- Bulging eyes: These make blinking the eyes a difficult task because of the inability to close them properly, thus damaging the cornea and resulting in dry eyes. Over time, if left untreated, eye infections can lead to permanent vision damage.
- Sudden drop in the level of androgens: This happens during menopause, making the lacrimal gland and meibomian gland vulnerable to changes. This alters the composition of tears, making them evaporate faster and causing a reduction in tear production.
- Elongated usage of contact lenses: It tends to cause or increase the possibility of dry eyes.
It is important for one to meet an eye doctor immediately upon experiencing any of the above symptoms and getting a comprehensive eye examination done. There are tests and clinical procedures that measure the quality and quantity of tears that are produced, to detect dry eyes and ascertain its cause. Management, treatment, and improvement of the dry eye condition are possible depending upon the severity of the condition.