A woman’s hormone levels fluctuate throughout life, changing with puberty, pregnancy and menopause. These normal hormone changes, and hormone changes associated with certain health conditions, can affect mood, skin, and weight. Hormone changes can also affect a woman’s sight.
Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers; they tell cells and tissues how to act. Female sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, regulate the reproductive system, for example. Other hormones, like those produced by the thyroid gland, regulate other body processes in both men and women. Levels of these hormones can rise and fall during different times in life, and as the result of some diseases and conditions. Changes in hormone levels can affect eyesight.
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone. Estrogen levels change at several different points in a woman’s lifetime, and each of these changes can affect eyesight. Surges in estrogen during puberty can affect distance vision to cause nearsightedness, for example, and elevation in estrogen levels during menstruation can cause watery eyes and vision problems for some women.
Elevated estrogen and progesterone levels during pregnancy can result in blurred vision and focusing problems, and can even affect a woman’s eyeglass or contact lens prescription. Other changes during pregnancy, such as pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, can result in blurred vision.
Due to a slow drop in estrogen and progesterone levels, vision can also change during perimenopause and menopause. Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can affect the eye’s oil glands, which can lead to dry eye. Because they have lower levels of estrogen and progesterone, women in menopause have a higher risk of developing dry eye. Estrogen also helps give the clear outer covering of the eye, known as the cornea, its elasticity; low estrogen levels allows the cornea to dry out, which then affects how light travels into the eye.
Other health conditions that cause changes in hormones can affect eyesight. Hormones produced by the thyroid gland plays an important role in the development of many organs, including the eyes. When the thyroid fails to produce the correct amount of hormones, thyroid eye disease can develop. Thyroid hormone imbalances can increase the risk of certain eye problems, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and changes to the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye.
While medical advancements have given rise to more effective drugs and earlier diagnosis of eye health problems, we want to encourage all women to schedule an annual eye exam. Call Illinois Eye Center today to schedule your appointment at (309) 243-2400 and ask the women in your life to do the same.