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Healthy Aging

Why Your Eyes Might Be Red and Itchy

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 01/18/2011
Last Updated: 08/13/2012

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My post on crying got a lot of us thinking about emotions. But one comment I received from Nancy ("My optometrist told me that we actually need testosterone as well as estrogen to produce tears, which is why many women develop dry eye as they age and as the hormone levels plummet") got me thinking about another aspect of tears: the lack of them as it relates to menopause. Indeed, hormones play a significant role in lubricating our eyes.

As if it’s not enough to deal with headaches, hot flashes, insomnia, hot flashes mood swings, fatigue…it a wonder we survive menopause. But we do.  

Menopause - and the years leading up to it - can introduce us to this condition, where our eyes get dry. Very dry. Redness, irritation, stinging, burning – that’s dry eye. Feeling like you want to rip your lenses out of your eyes because it’s so uncomfortable to wear them – that could be it, too. Other symptoms:

Stringy mucus in or around your eyes

Increased eye irritation from smoke or wind

Eye fatigue after short periods of reading

Sensitivity to light

Periods of excessive tearing

Blurred vision, often worsening at the end of the day or after focusing for a prolonged period

Last year at my annual wellness exam, I mentioned some of these symptoms to my physician. He thought for a moment and then added an additional blood test to the mix, to check for autoimmune diseases. Why? Because dry eyes can sometimes be common with certain disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma and Sjogren’s syndrome. It can also point to thyroid disorders and Vitamin A deficiency.

Thankfully, I turned out not to have any autoimmune diseases – just the garden variety dry eye. Ironic, coming from a natural-born crybaby. Where are the tears when I need them??

Even if menopause may not be to blame for dry eye, be aware of these other culprits:

Certain drugs to treat high blood pressure, such as diuretics

Antihistamines and decongestants

Birth control pills

Certain antidepressants

Pain relievers, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve)

Isotretinoin-type drugs to treat acne

Okay, why all the fuss? Well, besides being a major interruption in your everyday routine, dry eye can lead to complications like more frequent eye infections or in more severe cases, scarring on your eye’s surface, which can lead to vision problems down the line.

The best line of defense is prevention. People may think I’m making a fashion statement when I wear my sunglasses outside on a cloudy day, but I’m not. They help protect my eyes from the wind, which is so, so irritating and drying to my eyes.

Other ways you can protect your eyes:

Direct hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans away from your eyes

Protect your eyes with goggles when you swim

Take periodic breaks during long bouts of reading or computer work. You can close your eyes for a few minutes or even blink repeatedly for a few seconds – that’ll help spread your tears evenly over your eye

Stop smoking (I truly hope you don’t smoke!) and avoid smoke, which can worsen dry eye symptoms

Position your computer screen below eye level. If it’s above eye level, it’s likely you are opening your eyes wider to view it, which can contribute to dryness

Add moisture to the air. Try a humidifier in the winter, when the air is likely more devoid of moisture

This Matters> There is relief from itchy, dry eyes. You can try an over-the-counter eye drop (there are many varieties, so discuss them with your healthcare professional), wash your eyelids to control inflammation, or either in supplement form or in foods like walnuts, salmon, flaxseed, canola or soybean oil.

Or, how about watching a real tear-jerker of a movie to get your eyes nice and lubricated (at least for the moment)? Some guaranteed to work: Marley & Me, The Notebook, Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment, Ghost, March of the Penguins (I don’t know why, but that one really turned on the tears for me)…I could go on and on. Chances are you have your own!

Want to read more? http://neue-medizin.info/condition/dry-eye-syndrome

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Comments

Wow! This is a problem I've been having lately, but I never realized it could be linked to menopause (or, in my case, perimenopause. Thanks for all the really helpful tips.

I have dry eyes when I take my allergy meds for seasonal allergies. It's a tough time of year for me. THe allergies make my eyes run and get goopy which mess up my s, but the drugs tend to dry things out and make my eyes irritable for the lenses.

I like the Omega 3 tip. It's funny how when you're a kid the more common prob is conjunctivitis and when you're in the older set it's dry eye. At least dry eye is not communicable (and they don't send you home from school!).

I like the idea of a tear-jerker of a movie being the remedy! I had a friend who had lasik surgery and for an extra fee they also put some sort of tear packs in her eyes. I can't remember all the details, but is that a legitimate remedy? Sounds extreme, but I'm just curious.

I too have dry eyes from Lasik, and it's the worst first thing in the morning! I'm curious about the procedure Kristen mentions. I know my surgeon did something with my tear ducts so my eyes should stay moist but I'm not sure what that was. I use artificial tears several times a day and run a humidifier at night, which also helps with my dry gum sockets (or so says the dentist). The other remedy my doctor suggested was sitting with a warm compress over my eyes to draw moisture to my eyes.

I'm so guilty of not taking breaks while I'm writing at the computer. No wonder my eyes burn. Good advice on what to do about dry eyes.

I notice that when I haven't slept enough the dry eye syndrome is worse, especially as a lens wearer. Do you know why that would be the case?

My eyes have been more runny since the weather's gotten cold, especially when I come into a warm house. I swear it's so cold outside I feel like they're actually freezing in my head when I'm outside.

I started to have eye problems last year. I had something called blepheritis where your eye is red, irritated and you wake up with eye matter. The inflammation is actually caused by the eyelid and dirt so I stay away from mascara. I was told to get on meds, that lots of people get this.. to wash your eyelids every single day with soap and water and to take omega 3-fatty acid. I found washing my eyelids has really helped me.

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I have heard the same thing, when the eyes lack the right amount of lubricants, which is indeed the tears; it is obvious that an itchy feeling will occur. Care should be taken that we do not rub our eyes in those conditions, as it may damage the iris or cornea.

So interesting article for me, because I suffer from dry eyes from the constant reading computer. So if I'd instal into my work place humidifier like this , or i should look for any another device?

good info thanks

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