Dry eye disease is a common condition characterized by dryness of the eyes. It occurs when the tear glands produce inadequate or too few tears to lubricate and nourish the eyes. Symptoms may include a burning or stinging sensation in the eyes, dryness, redness, blurred vision, feeling of something in the eye, or eye fatigue. Many factors can cause dry eyes, including age, medications, and certain medical conditions. However, one of the most significant contributing factors is gender: dry eye disease is more common in women than men. Studies have found that dry eyes occur in women three times more often than men.
Reasons for Dry Eyes in Women
Why are dry eyes so much more common in women? The answer is unclear, but several factors may explain the gender disparity. These factors include hormones, medications, environmental influences, and genetic predisposition.
Hormonal changes due to menopause, pregnancy, and other life events can cause dry eyes in women. During perimenopause, the period leading up to menopause, hormone levels fluctuate wildly, which can trigger dry eye symptoms. During pregnancy, hormones associated with milk production (prolactin) can reduce tear production, causing dry eyes.
Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, can also cause dry eyes. Oral contraceptives contain synthetic hormones that can reduce tear production and lead to dry eye symptoms.
Diuretics are medications that increase the amount of fluid excreted from the body. They can also reduce tear production, leading to dry eyes in some women. Some diuretics block hormones that stimulate tear production, while others interfere with water absorption in the eyes.
Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can also cause dry eyes in women. Doctors commonly prescribe SSRIs to treat depression and anxiety, but they can have a drying effect on the eyes due to their impact on tear production.
Beta-blockers are medications commonly used to treat high blood pressure but can also cause dry eyes. Beta-blockers work by blocking the action of certain hormones on the tear glands, which can reduce tear production and lead to dry eye symptoms.
Environmental factors can also play a role. Exposure to dry air, dust, wind, and smoke can reduce tear production and lead to dry eye symptoms. Environmental allergens such as pollen or pet dander can also irritate the eyes and worsen irritation.
Other environmental factors that can contribute to dry eyes in women include the following:
- Prolonged screen use
- Dry climates
- Contact lens wear
- Air conditioning
Prolonged screen time can dry out the eyes by reducing tear production, while dry climates or air conditioning can reduce humidity levels and dry out the mucous membranes. Contact lenses can also dry the eyes due to their proximity to them and lower oxygen levels.
Wearing eye makeup can also contribute to dry eyes in women. Some eye makeup products can irritate and dry the eyes due to chemicals or allergens. Additionally, wearing heavy eyeliner or mascara can block tear ducts, thus reducing tear production and leading to dryness.
Genetic predisposition also plays a role in women’s dry eyes. Women are more likely than men to develop dry eyes due to inherited genes or other factors that affect tear production.
Certain autoimmune diseases, such as Sjögren’s syndrome, are more common in women and can thus lead to dry eye symptoms. Therefore, scientists suggest that dry eyes may run in families and pass from generation to generation.
How to Prevent Dry Eyes in Women
There are several steps women can take to prevent dry eye symptoms. Reducing environmental triggers such as dry air, dust, wind, smoke, and allergens is essential. Additionally, avoiding medications that can cause dry eyes may help alleviate symptoms.
Furthermore, wearing sunglasses outdoors and minimizing screen time can help relieve symptoms. Finally, switching to a preservative-free artificial tears product and avoiding some eye makeup products may help reduce dry eyes in women.
It’s important to note that dry eye disease is a chronic condition that can be exacerbated by environmental factors or certain medications. Therefore, consult a doctor before changing your lifestyle or medication. A dry eye specialist can diagnose the cause and recommend appropriate treatments.
Receive Expert Dry Eye Treatment
Identifying and addressing the underlying cause of dry eyes is vital in relieving dry eye symptoms. If symptoms persist, consult a doctor for a comprehensive evaluation.
At the Dry Eye Institute of St. Louis, we’re dedicated to providing personalized dry eye care in a comfortable and supportive environment. We use advanced diagnostic technology to identify the cause of dry eyes and recommend tailored treatments to help reduce dry eye symptoms.
We take the time to explain your specific condition and the best products to treat it. Because we partner with manufacturers, we have early access to new treatments and medications and can help you find what works best.
Overall, dry eye disease is more common in women than men due to several factors, such as hormones, genetic predisposition, environmental factors, medications, and the use of cosmetics. With the right treatment plan, we can help relieve your dry eye symptoms and improve your vision.