Various eye changes may occur during times of fluctuating hormone levels, such as during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and perimenopause. Around the time of menopause, your eyesight may be slightly altered. Eye shape may also change slightly, making contact lenses less comfortable and increasing the need for corrective lenses for reading. Other problems of the eyes common after midlife and menopause include:
Dry eye. After menopause, some women report chronically dry and scratchy eyes, often along with light sensitivity, blurred vision, increased tearing, or swollen or reddened eyelids—a condition called “chronic dry eye syndrome.” This condition can occur in climates with dry air, as well as from certain diseases (such as Sjögren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects the glands that produce your tears and saliva) and with the use of some drugs (such as allergy medications and antidepressants).
Therapies are available to help provide relief for dry eye. An expanding array of polymers, gels, and solutions for restoring the quality and quantity of tears is available. Small tear duct plugs placed by an ophthalmologist (physician specializing in the eye) are available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to conserve tear volume and may be appropriate in some patients. A medication called “topical cyclosporine A” may also be appropriate to reduce any inflammation in the eye that may contribute to dry eye.
Cataracts. The prevalence of cataracts (clouding of the lens of the eye) is higher in postmenopausal women than in men of the same age, though fortunately studies have not found significant associations between hormone therapy, age at first period, age at menopause, or years of contraceptive use and cataracts. Symptoms develop slowly and painlessly and often begin after age 60. Visual problems include glare sensitivity, cloudy vision, difficulty seeing at night, double vision, and loss of color intensity.
Glaucoma. Glaucoma is another ocular condition for which age is an independent risk factor, regardless of sex. Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that lead to damage to the optic nerve, usually from increased pressure in the eye. It can permanently damage vision and lead to blindness if untreated.
As a midlife woman, know that aging brings increased risk for several eye diseases. Regular eye checkups are vital in finding eye disease early, when problems are often easier to treat. With any serious eye condition, consulting an ophthalmologist is recommended.