By Mamta Trivedi MCOptom DipTP(IP), Specialist optometrist at Feel Good Contacts.
Going through the menopause can be difficult for many women but when you’re stuck in a city office, away from your home comforts, the feelings of discomfort are exacerbated.
Symptoms such as hot flushes, fatigue (due to insomnia), memory problems, dizziness and painful joints are expected as they are well documented. Added to this challenge is one of the lesser known symptoms – Dry Eye Syndrome.
Common symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome include dryness, light sensitivity, blurred vision as well as burning, gritty and sandy feelings. Despite suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome, your eyes will be watery. These teary eyes are actually a sign that your eyes are trying to make up for an ineffective tear film.
According to the Society of Women’s Health Research, 62% of perimenopausal and menopausal women suffered from dry, itchy eyes but only 16% realised menopause was to blame. Just under 59% sought medical advice about their dry eyes and 58% had tried to treat their eyes with OTC remedies.
Why does this happen?
Like most symptoms of the menopause, our hormones are to blame. In the year during menopause transition, you’ll go through many hormonal changes. After menopause, your body makes less reproductive hormones. It is the lower levels of estrogen and androgens that can cause dry eyes.
Taking care of yourself at work
If you’re at work, then it’s important to eliminate any unnecessary screen time as this can strain your eyes. While it is impossible in this digital age to completely escape from using a screen, there are small changes you can make that will make a difference to your eye health.
Firstly, instead of firing an email to your colleague, try picking up the phone and talking to them. It would be even better if you could walk across the office and have a face to face discussion. Besides giving your eyes a break from the screen this is a good opportunity to stand up and stretch your body.
Secondly, try to avoid having your lunch at your desk, this will stop you from looking at your screen. Instead, get some fresh air and have your sandwiches on a park bench or patch of grass. If this is not possible then find a location in the office that is away from your computer screen and don’t be tempted to look at your phone!
When you’re back at your desk and using your computer, lower the screen so that your eyelids also lower and decrease the evaporative surface. Do try to be mindful of how much time you’re spending staring at the screen. Simply looking away from your computer screen for a minute or so every now and again can give your eyes a much-needed break. Also try and rest your eyes. When you’re deeply focused on a task, you tend to blink less, even if you don’t realise it. If you’re not blinking enough, your eyes are not receiving regular hydration and moisture from your tears. As a result, your eyes will begin to feel dry and irritated. Get into the habit of ‘resting your eyes’ by looking away and closing them purposefully, the eyelids are great protectors with lots of moisturising glands on the inside. I always follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away.
You should try to schedule regular trips to the water machine as another way to get you away from your screen. Whilst there, make sure you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
Dealing with pre-existing conditions
If you already suffer from dry eye syndrome or other eye conditions, then these pre-existing problems are likely to be exacerbated during the menopause. It’s fine to wear contact lenses during the menopause but some women feel that their dry eye condition makes wearing lenses less comfortable. In such cases it’s worth visiting an optometrist who may be able to suggest alternative types of lenses. Or it may be the case that you have to avoid wearing contact lenses, switch to glasses and the optometrist will suggest appropriate lubricating drops.
Changes to your environment
Changes to your environment can also help to keep your eyes healthy, if possible, keep office air conditioning to a minimum (you may need it from time to time to keep hot flushes at bay) and invest in a humidifier to keep the air moist. Remove drafts. If your job involves business travel, then push vents away from your face when you’re in a car. If you’re a frequent flyer, use eye drops before you embark and then when you disembark the plane. Alternatively, you can avoid contact lens wear for the duration of the flight.
Of course, it’s not always possible to control your environment. If you’re commuting to work on a windy day, wear glasses or sunglasses to block the wind. Wraparound sunglasses offer optimum protection.
Would you need any treatment?
Treatment for dry eyes begins with artificial tears. OTC eye drops offer temporary relief, so I’d recommend starting with this. There are many different types to choose from and the quantity of drops required, and length of treatment will depend on how dry and sore your eyes are. If eyelids are inflamed, then use a warm compress (microwaveable bean bag, or ‘warm’ compress applied over the eyelids for 5-10 minutes).
Also, your optometrist may prescribe different types of medication depending on your condition for example drugs to reduce eyelid inflammation, drugs to reduce cornea inflammation, drugs to stimulate tears or eye inserts which slowly release a lubricating substance throughout the day.
There is some evidence that the initiation of hormone replacement therapy may help alleviate symptoms.
Seek medical advice
In general, menopause symptoms and dry eyes linked to the menopause can last for four years after your last period, but some women experience them for longer. If you have any concerns, then I recommend that you seek medical advice as soon as you experience dry eyes. Whilst it’s important to speak to your GP about any menopausal symptoms, it is a good idea to see an ophthalmologist or optometrist. They will be knowledgeable about the unique eye changes that occur during the menopause and offer bespoke advice on how to deal with your specific problems, diagnose them appropriately and refer you to a specialist ophthalmologist or optometrist for further advice and treatment. In some cases, symptoms can be mild and dealt with easily and in other cases, if left untreated, dry eyes can lead to scarring on the cornea and ulcers.
About Feel Good Contacts
Established in 2008 by qualified optometrists, UK based, Feel Good Contacts is one of the UK’s leading online suppliers of discounted contact lenses and eye care products. It is also the only UK company to offer this discounted service via a mobile app. The matrix below shows the price per contact lens box charged by Feel Good Contacts compared to high street opticians.
The company has been striving to improve its green credentials both at its London based offices and warehouse and is now one of the first online contact lens retailers to actively participate in reducing plastic waste with the recycling of contact lenses.