Watch out: your dry, itchy eyes might not be caused by allergies.
Dry eyes are a common symptom of the menopause, as low levels of estrogen and progesterone cause glandular changes. In other words, normal hormone levels instruct your glands to produce the right amount of oil and tears, keeping your eyes feeling great. But hormonal imbalances cause your eyes to be less lubricated, leaving your eyes feeling painful, burning, itchy, red, and (paradoxically) watery.
As Meg explains: “Some women have it really bad, where they can’t even open their eyes in the morning. Your eyes hurt and itch and water a lot. It’s like when you’re out and there’s a big gust of wind and your eyes get all dry. You’d think that because they’re watery that would help, but dry eyes need that oil from the tear glands, not water.”
That said, don’t assume that just because you’re not waking up in agony that you don’t have dry eyes. Meg herself didn’t suffer from any major or noticeable symptoms. “I knew post-menopausal women got dry eyes,” she tells us, “so I did a lot of research on it and thought it might be good to get tested, even though I didn’t feel like I had it. At the same time, I made an appointment to get laser eye surgery to correct my vision and they told me, ‘We can’t laser your eyes because you’ve got dry eyes!’ Even though I didn’t have any intense symptoms, I still needed to clear my eyes.”
So, what can you do about it?
First, Get Tested
Meg recommends seeing renowned optometrist Adam Simmonds at his clinic in Primrose Hill, London. An initial assessment with him lasts about 45 minutes, involving tests and analysis to get to the root of the problem and takes measurements that are used to measure and track markers such as tear osmolarity (aka saltiness) that play an important part in eye comfort.
It’s important to get tested because far too often, people simply just go to the chemist to get eye drops, as if there is such thing as a “magic eye drop” that cures all causes of dry eyes. Simmonds uses a number of diagnostic tools at his clinic to determine the causeof the symptoms which will determine the type of dry eye problem and therefore the best treatment.
These tools may seem complicated, but fortunately, they’re fairly pain-free and non-invasive. Simmonds uses an SBM Sistemi Ocular Surface Analyser (which analyses the various tear layers in your eye to determine which ones aren’t working) and the I-Pen (which checks the saltiness of your tears) to get a better look at all the details in your eyes.
Depending on the cause, there are a few treatments that can help with dry eyes. Firstly, there’s a device called Blephex that spins a medical grade microsponge along the edge of your eyelids and lashes, removing scurf and debris whilst exfoliating the lids. This is primarily a great treatment for blepharitis, an inflammatory condition of the eyelid.
If you’re suffering from Evaporative Dry Eye, caused by insufficient oil on the front surface of the eye tears (due to something called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction) then a high-tech instrument called Intense Pulsed Light, IPL stimulates the glands with bright light to produce more oils. It’s completely painless, and the effects are felt after only a few sessions, if not sooner. Simmonds is one of the only optometrists and ophthalmologists in the UK to have this technology. Clinical studies shows 86% of patients noted vastly reduced symptoms after three sessions. In some cases, results can last up to three years.
Otherwise, there’s a few more treatments you could consider:
- Heat Masks are designed to heat the eyelids to 40°C for ten minutes which is the minimum time and temperature required to melt the oil in the glands to potentially reduce blockage. This procedure should be done five times per week.
- Iomega 3 fish oil supplementshave been shown to improve tera constituency.
- Lid wipes, especially those containing high levels of sodium hyaluronate (hyaluronic acid) and aloe vera are very helpful for relief from blepharitis.
- Go to a chemist and you will be given Eye drops. These will temporarily relieve symptoms but they won’t heal the cause. Dry eye drops are a massive industry worldwide and, with better advice and treatment, people could do without them.
Meg herself notes,“It’s quite amazing! During the exam, when they go through the eye, they film it and you can see everything, these little oil ducts. It’s like a chimney sweeping, clearing out the ducts. I would definitely recommend it. I just think it’s amazing that they actually got all these lasers – we didn’t have any of this years ago. I just remember my mum having very sensitive eyes as she got older. They were always quite red and she always had a tissue, and my gran did as well. Now, I know it’s because they had dry eyes. The great thing is with the treatment you can clean your eyes out and start again. It’s not invasive, it’s comfortable, it’s very quick, and I think it’s probably something that everyone should do.”
Dry Eyes affects about 20% of women and if left untreated can result in infection and severe discomfort or pain. If you are experiencing problems with your eyes, book a visit to Adam Simmonds clinic. Dry Eyes can be treated at the root, so you don’t need to constantly buy eye drops and feel irritated by your eyes. If your eyes are really the window to your soul, why keep them dry?
To book an appointment or for more information, visit adamsimmonds.co.uk.
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