According to Women’s Eye Health.org
- 2/3 of blindness and visual impairment occurs in women
- 3/4 of blindness and visual impairment is preventable or treatable
You probably didn't know that menopause has significant effects on your eyesight. This shouldn't surprise you, because menopause is a holistic condition that affects all of the systems of your body.
Eye disease during menopause
There are 4 eye diseases that are common during menopause
1. Cataracts: Cataracts are cloudy patches that develop in the lens of your eye. They are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and is the principal cause of blindness in the world. Postmenopausal women are at a higher risk of developing cataracts, when compared to men of the same age group. 58% of all cataract cases are women. During middle age, most cataracts are small and do not affect vision. It is after age 60 that most cataracts steal vision.
Symptoms of cataracts include:
- clouded, blurred or dim vision
- increasing difficulty with vision at night
- sensitivity to light and glare
- seeing "halos" around lights
- frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- fading or yellowing of colors
- double vision in a single eye
2. Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. It’s often associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye. It is the second biggest cause of blindness. 59% of all glaucoma cases are women. The risk for glaucoma increases rapidly after age 40.
Symptoms of glaucoma include:
- hazy or blurred vision
- the appearance of rainbow-colored circles around bright lights
- severe eye and head pain
- nausea or vomiting (accompanying severe eye pain)
- sudden sight loss
3. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): AMD is a chronic eye disease that causes vision loss in the center of your field of vision. This is the vision you use to drive, read, recognize faces and perform daily tasks. Women are 66 per cent more affected by AMD than men. This disease is most likely to occur after age 60.
Symptoms of AMD
- straight lines such as door frames and lampposts may appear distorted or bent
- vision may become blurry or develop gaps
- objects in front of you may change shape, size color or seem to move or disappear
- dark spots like a smudge on glasses could appear in the center of your vision
- colors can fade
- you may find bright light glaring and uncomfortable
- you may find it difficult to adapt from dark to light environments
- words might disappear when you are reading
4. Dry eyes: Dry eye disease is a condition that occurs when the eyes do not make enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. This leads to the eyes drying out and becoming inflamed (red and swollen) and irritated. 61% of menopausal women experience dry eyes. I have written a post specifically about dry eyes.
Hormones and their impact on vision
As with many other symptoms, the cause of eye disease during menopause is hormonal. Many studies have found that falling levels of estrogen is strongly associated with symptoms of eye disease during menopause, specifically cataracts, glaucoma and AMD.
Surprisingly, dry eyes is not associated primarily with falling estrogen levels. Researchers have found that dry eyes is associated with falling androgen levels. The best known and predominant androgen is testosterone. During perimenopause your androgen level falls. In postmenopause the level of androgens in your body is considerably lower than it was prior to perimenopause.
Androgens regulate the production of the salty solution of the watery middle layer of your tear film and the outer oily layer of the tear film. Lower levels of testosterone during menopause causes a lack of the salty solution and protective oil in the tear film. This brings about dry eyes.
How to reduce your risk of eye disease during menopause and afterwards
Here is a 2 step plan to reduce your risk of eye disease during menopause
- Have your eyes examined at least once a year
- Increase the levels of estrogen and testosterone in your body
Step 1 needs no further discussion.
As for step 2, since eye disease during menopause is strongly associated with falling estrogen and testosterone levels, doesn't it make sense that if you increase the levels of those hormones in your body you will reduce your risk of eye disease now and in the future?
You may be concerned about replacing diminished levels of hormones in your body, but consider:
- Diabetics inject the hormone insulin insulin into their bodies to manage their diabetes
- Women with an underactive thyroid condition are treated by increasing the levels of thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in their bodies (in fact, 26% of menopausal women have an under-active thyroid condition)
Therefore aren't taking insulin if you are diabetic and taking thyroxine for an underactive thyroid types of hormone replacement or HRT of a kind? Some women are uncomfortable with idea of HRT. Past medical studies had found HRT to increase users' risks of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. More recent research developments however have raised questions about these findings and concluded that HRT is safe for most women.
Conventional HRT refers to the taking of synthetic estrogen or synthetic estrogen and progestin, which are available by prescription. Many women prefer to try non-prescription methods to manage their menopause symptoms. Such a method exists: bioidentical hormones. Bioidentical hormones are hormones that are biologically identical to the hormones made by a your body. They function in the same way as the hormones made by your own body.
The Endocrine Society defines bio-identical hormones as "compounds that have exactly the same chemical and molecular structure as hormones that are produced in the human body." Compounding is the creation of a particular pharmaceutical product to fit the unique need of a patient.
Bioidentical estriol therapy will increase the level of estrogen in your body and reduce your risk of eye disease during menopause. Estriol is one of 3 estrogens that your body produces naturally.
Research conducted by a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School found that testosterone cream is a safe and effective therapy for the treatment of dry eye.
You can find a doctor near you, who specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (bhrt), by clicking here. She or he will help you to reduce your risk of eye disease during menopause and afterwards.
This post is reproduced with the permission of Menopause Matters.
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