Menstrual Cycle (2014) Linked to Dry Eyes
Learn more about dry eye syndrome
Many women notice that at certain times during their menstrual cycle they have more difficulty with dry eyes and red, irritated eyes. Researchers have linked dry eyes with changes in hormonal levels during the menstrual cycle.
Scientists understand that hormonal changes can be linked to tear production. Researchers compared the condition of the surface of the eye in pre-menopausal women with a similar group of men as a control group.
Normally, your tear glands secret tears and when you blink the tears are spread in a film over the surface of your eye. On top of this tear film is a very thin oily layer of meibum, secreted by the meibomian gland, that helps keep the tear film from evaporating.
You experience dry eyes when either the tear film is insufficient, the meibomian gland is not producing enough meibum, you are not blinking, or any combination of these factors.
In the study the test subjects were given ophthalmologic exams which included an assessment of how fast the thin tear film which covers and protects the eyes deteriorated, and the condition of the surface of the eye. These exams were repeated on day 2, 12 and 21.
For the female patients the condition of the ocular surface was poorer on day 21 than in day 2 or 12; there was no significant change in the male patients. Additionally, both the tear film breakup time and the overall dryness of the surface of the eye coincided. Further, the blood levels of estrogen also coincided with the changes in the cornea's dryness levels.
Researchers: E. Cavdar, A. Ozkava, et al
Published: Changes in tear film, corneal topography, and refractive status in premenopausal women during menstrual cycle, Contact Lens & Anterior Eye, June, 2014.
In this study researchers looked at the changes in tear production and the dryness of the surface of the eye in various specific phases of the menstrual cycle. In a group of 29 women, 14 of whom experienced dry eye symptoms, researchers evaluated tear production, tear film stability, just how dry the surface of the eye was and the kinds of cells making up the conjunctiva. In addition the amount of inflammation was measured.
The women's eyes were evaluated over the course of two menstrual cycles. Exams and samples were taken during the follicular phase, the first part of the menstrual cycle when immature eggs in the ovary mature, ending with ovulation. Exams and measurements were also taken in the luteal phase, which begins with ovulation and until menstrual begins. During this time the egg is ready for fertilization.
During the follicular phase the body produces high levels of estrogen. During the luteal phase the body produces more progesterone.
The researchers reported that dry eye symptoms were significantly higher during the peak of estrogen production in the follicular phase. In patients with dry eye, the dry eye symptoms worsen during this period.
Researchers: P. Versura, M. Fresina, et al,
Published: Ocular surface changes over the menstrual cycle in women with and without dry eye, Gynecological Endocrinology, August, 2007.