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Why Dry Eye Affects More Women Than Men

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Why Dry Eye Affects More Women Than Men

The millions of women suffering from dry eyes can tell you that dry, itchy, watery eyes are no fun. Dry eye syndrome is not just uncomfortable or a nuisance, but can also negatively impact productivity and quality of life. Dry eye tends to develop in those aged 50 and up, and affects more women than men. Below we’ll explain why it’s more prevalent among women than men.

Dry Eye Syndrome and Women

Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a condition characterized by dry, itchy, gritty and burning eyes. It occurs when the eye isn’t properly lubricated, either due to insufficient or poor-quality tears. Healthy tears are made up of a delicate balance of water, oil, and mucous, and any imbalance in this composition can result in dry eyes.

The symptoms of dry-eye can range from mildly uncomfortable to incapacitating and can cause visual disturbances or corneal damage if left untreated. If you think you may have dry eyes, or experience any of the following symptoms, Dr. Mona Sandhu and Dr. Gerald Choi can offer effective long-lasting relief.

Dry-eye symptoms include:

  • Burning or itchy eyes
  • Grittiness
  • Fatigued eyes
  • Eyes that are red and sore
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity)
  • Blurred vision
  • Watery eyes

Why Is Dry Eye More Common Among Women?

woman behind the flowersThe major reason that women are at risk for dry eye is due to the hormonal changes that occur throughout their lifetime. The fluctuation of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone (among other hormones) affects tear quality and production. More specifically, high levels of estrogen and low levels of testosterone both contribute to DES.

Women taking oral contraceptives may also experience dry eyes as a side effect. This is because the reduction in androgen levels due to the pill may impact the amount of tears produced and reduce tear-film stability.

The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can also lead to DES, leading pregnant women to stop wearing eye makeup or contact lenses due to heightened eye sensitivity. Furthermore, morning sickness may contribute to dry eyes as vomiting can cause dehydration, and because the eyes are part of a whole system, a dehydrated body often means dehydrated eyes.

Women who wear eye makeup, such as mascara and eyeliner, have an increased risk of developing dry eye due to irritating ingredients found in these products. It should also be noted that makeup removers often contain oil and harsh chemicals that can thin out the tear film covering the eye, causing the tears to evaporate prematurely.

Though women of all ages have a higher chance of developing dry eye than men do, those over the age of 50 are more susceptible to it.

Post-Menopausal Women and Dry Eyes

An estimated 38% of post-menopausal women in North America use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to manage menopausal symptoms. A common side effect of HRT is dry eye, especially if estrogen alone is administered.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association followed approximately 25,000 women over the course of 4 years to determine the relationship between HRT and dry eye syndrome. The results show that women using HRT with estrogen alone increase their risk of developing dry eye by 69%, and women who use a combination of estrogen and progesterone are 29% more likely to experience dry eye symptoms than women who don’t use HRT at all.

The risks and benefits of HRT should be discussed with a primary caregiver or gynecologist before starting treatment, particularly if there is a history of dry eye or other ocular conditions in the family.

Other medications popularly prescribed to patients over 50 can also contribute to dry eye symptoms, such as diuretics, antidepressants, and beta-blockers.

Fortunately, there are steps that women can take to prevent and/or treat dry eyes.

How Can Women Reduce Their Risk of Developing Dry Eye?

Below are a few practical tips:

  • If you wear eye makeup, don’t apply products on the inner parts of the eyelid in order to avoid irritation.
  • Be sure to remove eye makeup before bed by using a gentle soap or paraben-free makeup remover.
  • If you use a hairdryer, try not to aim it towards the eyes, as this can cause tears to evaporate.
  • Always discuss side effects and eye health history with your primary caregiver before starting any medication.
  • Use a humidifier in your home or place of work to reduce air dryness.
  • Use lubricating eye drops to relieve dry eye symptoms.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Regularly consume foods containing Omega-3s or take an Omega-3 supplement to improve tear quality.
  • Wear protective eyewear such as sunglasses when outdoors in order to block wind and debris from irritating the eye.

If you have any of the mentioned dry eye symptoms, call Clayton Heights Optometry Dry Eye Center today and schedule an appointment with Dr. Mona Sandhu and Dr. Gerald Choi. The optometrist will recommend the most up-to-date dry eye treatments for your eyes and condition.

Our practice serves patients from Surrey, Cloverdale, Langley, and Maple Ridge, BC and surrounding communities.


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Are Your Contact Lenses Causing Dry Eye?

Among the more frequent complaints, eye doctors receive from patients is that their contact lenses are making their eyes dry. While dry eye syndrome (DES) is very common among both contact lens wearers and non-wearers alike, the symptoms can be more severe and uncomfortable if you wear contact lenses. Typically, DES symptoms include irritated, red and itchy eyes.

The best way to deal with contact lens-induced dry eye syndrome is to visit Dr. Mona Sandhu and Dr. Gerald Choi, so we can determine exactly why your eyes are dry and provide ways to increase your comfort while wearing contact lenses.

What Is Contact Lens-Induced Dry Eye?

The cornea, the front of your eye, is the only area of your body that receives oxygen directly from the air. One reason contact lens wearers are predisposed to dry eyes is because the contact lens on your cornea can partially block oxygen from entering the eye. Although many contact lenses are designed to allow larger amounts of oxygen to permeate the eye, wearers can still experience dry, gritty eyes, especially towards the end of the day.

Another cause of contact lens-induced dry eye is the lenses’ absorption of tears. Lenses need liquid to stay soft and maintain their shape and integrity.

This is known as contact lens-induced dry eye.

In a healthy eye, tears allow the contact lens to comfortably swim in the tear film above the cornea. A shortage of lacrimal fluid can lead to gaps in the tear film, causing the contact lens to irritate the surface of the eye. That, in turn, causes pain, redness and itchiness.

This effect can be further exacerbated if the lenses are low in quality or are poorly fitted to the eye. Such contacts absorb too much liquid from the tear film, causing the eye to lose vital moisture. This can also occur when traditional soft lenses are worn for an extended period of time.

Getting Relief for Contact-Lens Induced Dry Eye

The following can provide relief from contact lens-related dry eye.

  • Eye drops – Be sure to get eye drops that can be applied safely with contact lenses to reduce discomfort and refresh eyes. If, for any reason, the over-the-counter eye drops aren’t working, consult Dr. Mona Sandhu and Dr. Gerald Choi, who can provide more effective treatment options.
  • Eye vitamins – Certain vitamins, taken orally, can increase the amount of nutrients your eyes receive. This not only improves eye health, but also increases contact lens comfort. The best eye vitamins and supplements include lutein, zeaxanthin, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Omega-3.
  • Silicone hydrogel contact lenses – These lenses are made from the most innovative contact lens material available on the market. They are extremely breathable because they permit up to 5 times more oxygen to reach the eye than older-generation contact lenses. This allows them to be worn over a long period of time. They reduce dryness and boost comfort.
  • Low water content contact lenses It is a common misconception that the higher the water content, the more comfortable the contact lens. For certain wearers, particularly those suffering from dry eyes, it can have the inverse effect. High water contact lenses allow more oxygen to flow to the cornea but over time, as they lose liquid, they draw it from the tear film, thus exacerbating dry eye symptoms.
  • Daily disposable contact lenses – Also called dailies, these single-day contact lenses are a great option for dry eye sufferers. This is because protein deposits don’t have the time to build-up and cause discomfort, and lenses don’t dry out as a result of improper cleaning routines.
  • Scleral lenses – These large-diameter rigid gas permeable (GP) lenses vault over the entire corneal surface, ensuring that the front surface of the eyes don’t dry out. The liquid reservoir between the lenses and the cornea provides a continuous moist environment that protects the cornea and provides relief for those with dry eyes.
  • Orthokeratology – Would you like to wear contact lenses only when asleep? Orthokeratology (or ortho-k) is a gas permeable contact lens prescribed for overnight wear only. These lenses reshape the cornea while you sleep and temporarily correct nearsightedness and other refractive errors, thus enabling you to see clearly during the day without any need for contacts or glasses. This reduces contact lens-related dry eye symptoms.
  • Adhering to the hygiene routine advised by your eye doctor – Those who wear monthly lenses need to adhere to a specific hygiene routine advised by their eye doctor. If you’re using the wrong solution or not cleaning your lenses properly, this could be why you’re suffering from dry eye. Keep in mind that not all multi-purpose cleaning solutions are designed to clean silicone hydrogel contact lenses, so make sure the solution you’re using is correct.

        There is also a chance you may have sensitive eyes and that your dry eye symptoms may be an adverse reaction to the preservatives in the solution. If your eyes feel irritated, yet you are using your regular cleaning solution, speak to Dr. Mona Sandhu and Dr. Gerald Choi, who will recommend a preservative-free lens solution for improved comfort.

        Tips to Avoid Dry Eye When Wearing Contact Lenses

        Dry Eye Girl 640×350To prevent eye dryness or inflammation, we recommend the following tips:

        • Make sure you’ve been fitted for your contact lenses by an eye doctor, as the eye practitioner can determine the exact strength and curvature of the contact lenses you need, and recommend the most suitable lenses for your eyes.
        • Regularly get your eyes examined for vision acuity and general ocular health. Contact Clayton Heights Optometry Dry Eye Center today for a comprehensive eye evaluation.
        • Purchase high-quality lenses and make sure they have good oxygen permeability. Lenses with hyaluronan, particularly silicone hydrogel lenses, are excellent for people prone to developing dry eyes. Hard lenses also come highly recommended, as they draw very little liquid from the tear film.
        • Until you find a better solution, do not wear contact lenses for extended periods. If you suffer from dry eyes, it is best that you only wear them for a few hours and on special occasions, such as for an outing or to play sports. Avoid wearing contact lenses when watching TV or working at your computer, as these place a strain on your eyes.
        • Make sure to dispose of lenses every day, fortnightly or monthly, depending on what your eye doctor recommends. Your contact lens containers should also be changed every few weeks to prevent any germ build-up.
        • Avoid wearing contact lenses when ill with a cold or the flu, as there is an increased risk of transferring germs into the eyes. Remove contact lenses if you have an eye infection like conjunctivitis (or pink eye), as germs can build up extremely well underneath them.

        If you wear contact lenses and struggle with dry eyes, ask your Clayton Heights Optometry Dry Eye Center eye doctor about scleral lenses. Dr. Mona Sandhu and Dr. Gerald Choi will patiently assess and explain your condition to you, and will provide solutions and treatments for optimal visual clarity and comfort. Fortunately, there’s a vast array of contact lens types and brands available, so those who fear that they may have to discontinue contact lens wear altogether need not worry.

        Call the Clayton Heights Optometry Dry Eye Center today to schedule your consultation.

        Our practice serves patients from Surrey, Cloverdale, Langley, and Maple Ridge, BC and surrounding communities.
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