With the arrival of perimenopause, also check your eye health - Instituto Oftalmológico Fernández Vega
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According to the advice of Dr Jesús Merayo, specialist at Instituto Oftalmológico Fernández-Vega, pathologies such as the dry eye syndrome are closely related to hormonal changes during the transition process to menopause.

“Many women are unaware that the hormonal changes that occur during perimenopause can also affect their visual health. In fact, diseases such as dry eye symptom are closely related to this new stage in the life of a woman, it is therefore very important that from the age of 45 women include amongst their care the regular examination of her eyes”, Dr Jesús Merayo, professor at Universidad de Oviedo researcher at Instituto Universitario Fernández-Vega assured on the occasion of the World Menopause Day.

Also called premenopause, perimenopause is the natural transition period to menopause. “It is the stage in the life of women in which their ovarian reserve starts to decrease and anomalies in the menstrual cycle appear. It usually comes around the age of 45 and its average duration is of 4 years”, explains the physician.

This hormonal decrease is responsible for the variation in the stimulus of the secretion of all mucosae (respiratory, digestive, vaginal, etc.) in a woman’s organism, also changing the amount and quality of their tear film. “Due to a decrease in the secretion of tears, the woman may start to feel discomfort in the eyes, a feeling of grittiness, heaviness of the eyes, tired eyes… a dry, rough and constant sensation that was not there before the hormonal changes”, states this specialist of the Instituto Oftalmológico Fernández-Vega.

Dismiss other potential pathologies
Dry eye syndrome affects nearly 30% of the population, women in its vast majority, and even though it is widely related to the hormonal changes during perimenopause and that it usually appears in this stage of life, it can also result due to other circumstances. Thus, Dr Merayo highlights the importance for women over 45 to check regularly their eye health. “This will help to verify if she has Dry Eye Symptom and to dismiss other potential pathologies that, like some thyroid diseases and other autoimmune conditions such as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue, may trigger or cause this eye alteration”, he explains. These diseases decrease tear secretion for those who suffer them, which together with perimenopause in women, “can make patients that had never experienced dry eye symptoms before, to do so at the age of 45 and above”.

Other factors that can potentially exacerbate dry eye syndrome are, for example, taking drugs such as tranquilisers and gastrointestinal regulatory substances or abusing the use of contact lenses or vasoconstrictor eye drops. “All this can also cause an otherwise healthy eye to start suffering from dry eye symptom when it reaches perimenopause”.

Some advice to avoid dry eye symptom
As well as regular eye check-ups, and in order to avoid dry eye symptom, Dr Merayo advises women to protect themselves from the wind and the sun with glasses whenever they are outdoors; to watch their posture, to rest their sight regularly and not to forget to blink to stimulate tear secretion if they work before a computer screen; or protect their eyes appropriately if they are going to use products such as ammonia or bleach “in the same way we use masks or protect other parts of our skin in the presence of toxic agents”. It is also paramount to take care of the quantity and quality of our sleep. “Without quality sleep and enough resting hours, we do not enter the REM sleep, which acts as a regenerative massage to the ocular surface in order to decrease the risk of eye diseases”, explains Dr Merayo.

To finish off, the expert reminds us of the importance of taking care of the delicate skin of our eyelids to avoid diseases such as rosacea or psoriasis. “Half the patients who report dry eye present problems in the skin of their eyelids, it is therefore very important to take special care when entering into menopause. This care consists mainly of removing make-up appropriately or performing a good face and eyelids cleansing even if no make-up is applied. The process of cleaning the eyelids involves applying local heat, massaging the area and cleaning the ocular surface when waking up in the morning and before going to bed. This is specially important in those individuals that use contact lenses and in patients that suffer from some kind of skin disease”, he concluded.

The Instituto Oftalmológico Fernández-Vega (IOFV) is a monographic Ophthalmology Hospital. The surname Fernández-Vega has been linked to this medical specialty for over 125 years. Currently, the Institute devotes all its efforts to the prevention, diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of those diseases that hinder vision.

Currently, the facilities of the Institute in Oviedo cover a surface area of approximately 12 000 square meters, where close to 200 people work. Over 100 000 patients are seen and 8 000 surgeries are performed every year.

In order to stay ahead in innovation and to return to society part of what its patients have given to the Institute, the IOFV has launched the Fundación de Investigación Oftalmológica (FIO) (Eye Research Foundation). The Foundation carries out biomedical translational research in ophthalmology and vision sciences.

All this activity generates a great teaching capacity for health professionals devoted to vision (ophthalmologists, opticians-optometrists, nurses and Medicine students), it materialises through different pre and post-graduate programmes in collaboration with the Universidad de Oviedo.

Furthermore, the Institute cares for disadvantaged people through the Fundación Fernández-Vega, present both at a local level and in international missions, such as recent trips to Cambodia and Peru.