Vision and eye health can change during perimenopause and menopause, along with just about every other system in the body. While it can feel overwhelming, we’ve got some additional...ahem, insights so you’ll know what you may expect that could be attributed to this major transition.

Here’s the caveat (and the gift): not every person will experience every symptom in menopause. So, keep these on your radar, but don’t panic. 

Blurry vision

Major hormone fluctuations can temporarily blur your vision. If you’ve ever been pregnant, you may have experienced this already due to hormonal change. While it’s surprising, and not safe if you’re driving, blurry vision does tend to go away once your hormone levels even out. It’s the same, and different, with menopause because sex hormone levels aren’t really “evening out” for long… they are continually decreasing.

Could be your corneas

Estrogen can give more elasticity to the corneas in your eyes. In menopause and perimenopause, when estrogen levels are reduced, the corneas aren’t getting as much estrogen and the corneas can begin to stiffen which can affect how light travels into your eyes.

A change in light refraction, plus the corneas being less elastic (causing dryness), can cause blurred vision. These can also contribute to contact lens discomfort if you wear those.

Dry eye syndrome (DES)

Dry eye syndrome, it’s a thing, a pretty aggravating thing. Symptoms may include itchiness, a burning sensation, eye pain, certainly dryness, mucus discharge from the eye, and it may even feel like there’s a foreign body actually on your eyeball.  

More news is that women are at an increased risk for developing DES as we age. But before you grab a bottle of drops and call it good, consider what else may be driving any dry eye symptoms you are having. If your vision is changing or you’re experiencing eye pain or any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your optometrist to get your eyes tested and screened, then look below for tips to find some relief. 

What else?

  • The last thing we need is to exacerbate dry eyes. Ow. So, a word about allergies, which can develop in adulthood. Nope, they’re not just for kids. If you suspect you’ve developed an allergy, consider getting a test done to clarify your suspicion, or rule it out. Allergic reactions or symptoms can include dry, itchy eyes.
  • Winter also dries the skin and eyes, so take note of where you are in your year. Incorporating more self-care as seasons change may relieve some symptoms around dry eyes.
  • If you wear prescription lenses of any kind, how long has it been since you’ve updated your ‘script or replaced your lenses? It’s an easy thing to forget to do in this busy age, but it could improve your vision sooner than later to get checked out and purchase some updated specs.
  • Many medications prescribed and taken by adults over 40 may contribute to dry eye. Check-in with your doctor, or look up your medications’ side effects to see if dry eye appears on the list.

Am I in menopause? Take the 30-second assessment now.

HRT and DES

Women taking hormone replacement therapies (HRT) are actually at more risk for dry eye when taking estrogen-only HRT. Those on progesterone or progestin plus estrogen hormone replacement therapies have less risk, but they are still at more risk than those not taking HRT. 

Cataracts

Blurred vision is also a potential symptom of cataract development. While cataract development is not attributed to menopause, it’s a good idea to check for them during your annual eye exams as they develop slowly over time. They aren’t painful, and usually develop due to aging or injury, but they can definitely, and ultimately, impair your vision. If you have diabetes or other eye conditions, you may be at higher risk for developing cataracts.

A cataract is a clouding on the lens of your eye, making it hard to see, read, and drive. Additional symptoms of cataract development are: 

  • Clouded, blurred, or dim vision
  • Increasing difficulty with vision at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Need for brighter light for reading and other activities
  • Seeing "halos" around lights
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Double vision in a single eye

At first, stronger prescription lenses and better or brighter lighting may be advised to treat cataracts. Any of these symptoms warrant a visit and possible screening with your eye doctor.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that contribute to damage of the optic nerve, usually from increased pressure in either or both eyes. 

CBD and medical marijuana, as well as other prescribed medications, are often used to treat glaucoma, as there is no cure for the disease. Untreated, glaucoma can permanently damage your vision and even lead to blindness. Another vote for early detection with tests and regular screenings, for sure.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Unattributed to menopause, but still in the realm of impaired vision, age-related macular degeneration is another condition to regularly test and screen for with your eye doc. This is different from glaucoma in that AMD usually affects the center of the field of vision due to damage to the retina, whereas glaucoma affects the side field of vision. AMD also appears in “dry” and “wet” forms, and similar to glaucoma, it can lead to vision impairment and blindness.

When to check in with an optometrist

  • Annually, for vision check-ups and screenings, especially if you’re already wearing prescription lenses
  • When you notice a change in your vision or experience any of the symptoms mentioned above
  • When in doubt about whether or not you’re experiencing a vision change or symptoms

It won’t hurt to talk with your regular doctor (or one of ours) about your vision symptoms for a referral to a specialist. And don’t forget to mention stress levels, screen time, and other menopause or perimenopausal symptoms you’re experiencing. Help and support available in your corner.

Care to share what’s going on with your vision? Come share with us in the Gennev Community Forums. Join the conversation today.