If it often said that your eyes are the window to your soul. It is thought that you can gaze into someone’s eyes and get lost in the moment or see what isn’t said.
The eye symbol is considered one of the most powerful symbols known to many cultures. It can be an indicator of good, evil, protection, wisdom, secrecy, and mystery.
The eyes can also be an indicator of honesty, intelligence, respect, modesty, and beauty.
More importantly, and more practically, the eyes are quite literally a passageway of information and visual stimuli. Not only do we rely on our eyes and our vision to complete the most basic of tasks, but we consciously or subconsciously use our eyes to read body language, judge distance, protect us from danger, and see the visual beauty that surrounds us in nature and art.
Your eyes and your vision may be something that we are all guilty of taking for granted, but just as your body ages, so too do your eyes.
Age related declines in eye performance can start from around age 40 and onwards. Some age-related declines are considered perfectly normal, such as presbyopia, the condition that results in so many requiring reading glasses as they age. This condition is the result of a loss of elasticity in the lens, making it difficult to focus on close objects.
Just because it is common, doesn’t mean it is inevitable. There are steps you can take to protect your vision and reduce your risk of serious eye disease in the future. More on this further below.
The timing of ‘age-related declines’ in eye health, and menopause is interesting. It is around the time that perimenopause begins that your eyes start to show imperfections. Coincidence or not, there are theories about how the hormonal changes in menopause affect your eye health.
There are three main theories about how menopause affects your eyes:
Dry eyes: when oestrogen and androgen levels decrease, so does the salty solution of your inner tear film, and the oily layer of your outer tear film. As a result, the eyes dry out and can become red, swollen and irritated. Think of vaginal dryness – this is the result of hormonal changes affecting the moisture of a membrane – same theory with the eyes.
Cataracts: cataracts are extremely common with aging and can be considered an age-related decline. However, oestrogen receptors have been detected in the lens of the eyes – the area that becomes cloudy and rigid when a cataract develops. Naturally occurring oestrogen appears to provide a protective benefit to the eyes from developing cataracts, and with menopause, we lose that extra protection. Cataract symptoms are painless and develop slowly. Keep an eye out for blurry vision, difficulty seeing at night, sensitivity to light, seeing halos around light, double vision and see fading colours. If you are concerned, get your eyes checked by an optometrist.
Glaucoma: the last theory to link menopause and eye health involves intraocular pressure. It is believed that the pressure in your eyes increases with menopause, leaving you vulnerable to glaucoma development. Glaucoma is the name for eye diseases where vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. Peripheral vision is affected first, then blindness can eventuate. This is also hard to detect via symptoms, making regular eye testing particularly important for early detection.
Regardless of whether it is menopause or ageing that affects your eye health, it is important to remember to get regular eye examinations. In Australia, it is recommended that you get your eyes tested every 2-3 years.
In the meantime, protect your eyes and support eye health with the below tips.
- Wear sunglasses that block UV radiation (polarised sunglasses), and a wide brimmed hat when you are outside.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increase the risk of many eye diseases via creating damage to blood vessels and directly affecting the eyes via smoke exposure.
- When focused on the computer, or a single object, reduce eye strain by looking away every 20 minutes for about 20 seconds.
- Consider taking supplements to get an extra boost. Vitamin C, fish oil, lutein, zeaxanthin and zinc are great supplements to consider. Speak with our naturopath and nutritionist team to see what is right for you.
- Reduce your eye exposure to wind.
- If you are working with hazardous chemicals or machinery to cut, drill, grind, hammer, sand, spray or weld, wear eye protection.
- Enjoy a healthy, varied diet. Eating fresh, healthy foods regularly helps to keep your blood vessels and eyes in good shape. Enjoy green and leafy veg, oily fish, eggs, nuts, beans, oranges and oysters, among other healthy and fresh foods.
- Control your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Keeping these factors healthy helps to keep your eyes healthy.
- Be physically active and maintain a healthy weight.
- Make sure you have proper lighting. Position your lights correctly when reading or working at the computer. Low lights, or bright lights can cause eye strain.