Menopause can cause a range of different symptoms, from hot flushes and difficulty sleeping to headaches and joint pain.
But did you know the menopause can also affect the eyes - and in more than one way?
Here’s what you need to know.
How does menopause affect the eyes?
The menopause can affect the eyes in a number of ways. According to Dr Elizabeth Hawkes, this includes:
- Dry eyes
- Droopy eyelids
- Crow’s Feet
- Dark circles
“Dry eye syndrome, or xerophthalmia, is extremely common,’ explains Consultant Ophthalmic and Oculoplastic Surgeon, Dr Elizabeth Hawkes.
She said there can be a number of different symptoms of dry eye, including eyes being uncomfortable, itchy, gritty, red and sore. It can also affect vision, cause light sensitivity and increase watering.
During the menopause, “significant fluctuations occur in hormones such as oestrogen and androgens, which can affect tear production, so once the natural hormone balance is altered during menopause, the eye feels the impact,” Dr Hawkes added.
The hormone changes that occur during the menopause can result in blepharitis, explained Dr Hawkes.
Blepharitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the eyelids, which can cause an overgrowth of bacteria on the eyelashes and eyelids.
The symptoms of blepharitis include red eye, burning, stickiness, excessive watering, discomfort, light sensitivity and foreign body sensation.
It can also cause excessive eyelid closure or twitching, known as ‘blepharospasm’, which sometimes requires regular botox injections around the eye and brow region, added Dr Hawkes.
There’s not a cure for blepharitis, but treatment at all stages of the condition is lid hygiene to control the bacterial build-up. Other treatments such as antibiotics and steroids may also be necessary for different stages of the condition.
“The eyelids are one of the most delicate areas of the face due to their structural complexity and function,” said Dr Elizabeth Hawkes.
“They are usually the first facial feature to show signs of ageing, which include fine lines, excess skin, and prominent eye bags. This can result in eyelid ‘heaviness’ and a constantly exhausted appearance.”
Dr Hawkes said there are multiple reasons why ageing occurs in the eyelids, including the skin sagging due to loss of elastin, which is an essential protein for maintaining skin elasticity.
A loss of elastin is common during the menopause and causes the appearance of excess skin, which is known as dermatochalasis.
The underlying major eyelid muscle which encircles the eye also becomes weak and bulky, which contributes to the appearance of eyelid heaviness.
During the menopause, women experience reduced collagen in the skin, explained Dr Elizaebeth Hawkes.
“The decrease in collagen directly impacts the appearance of the skin, resulting in wrinkles around the eye area, which are commonly known as crow’s feet,” she said.
Anti-wrinkle treatments such as botox inhibit muscle movement and may be used by some as a solution to fine lines and wrinkles.
Dr Hawkes said the anatomy of eyelid skin is “complex and unique” and the eyelids not having a subcutaneous layer of fat directly underneath the skin means eyelid skin is “prone to appear darker than the rest of the face”.
Volume loss under the eyes is one of the main causes of dark circles in this area and something that is “common during the menopause,’ said Dr Hawkes.
Some may choose to treat this with tear trough fillers, where hyaluronic acid is injected into the area via a cannula.
The procedure lasts approximately 12-18 months and it can “dramatically improve the appearance of dark circles under the eyes,” added Dr Hawkes.