By Cindy Moy Carr, founder of mySysters
In the sci-fi series The Expanse, a team of Martians (humans descended from space travelers to Mars) visit Earth for a conference.
Unaccustomed to the sun–and to the amusement of ‘Earthers’–the Martians don sunglasses and dodge windows to spare their eyes the pain of the sun’s glare.
As someone living with glaucoma, I have to side with the Martians on this one.
Avoiding the sun’s glare is an ongoing challenge, as is staving off the progression of this disease.
WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?
Glaucoma is a collection of eye conditions that harm the optic nerve, a nerve located in the back of the eye, and can result in vision loss or blindness.
There’s no cure for glaucoma, but early treatment can often stop the damage and protect your vision.
There are many different types of glaucoma, but the most common type is called open-angle glaucoma.
Open-angle glaucoma happens gradually when the eye does not drain fluid as well as it should.
Eye pressure builds and starts to damage the optic nerve.
Most types of glaucoma are painless and cause no vision changes at first, leading glaucoma to be called the ‘silent blinder.’
WHAT DOES PERIMENOPAUSE HAVE TO DO WITH IT?
At a time when hormone levels vary, such as duringperimenopause or menopause, it is not uncommon for women to experience changes in eye health.
Studies have demonstrated that this impact is brought on by a drop in sex hormone levels, particularly estrogen and androgen.
NOTE: While perimenopause and menopause are separate life stages, menopause is often used colloquially to described both stages.
A proactive approach to eye health is essential to identify prevalent issues early.
Glaucoma is brought on by the high intraocular pressure rise found in menopausal women.
High eye pressure can harm the optic nerve, which finally results in blindness and vision loss.
With early identification and treatment, you can protect your eyes from glaucoma’s damaging effects on vision.
In its early stages, glaucoma does not manifest any symptoms or cause pain or discomfort, but it can gradually impair side vision and eventually eliminate central vision.
Although glaucoma has no known cure, several medications or surgical procedures can reduce the disease’s progression.
Intraocular pressure can be lowered with prescription eye drops or medications.
Although laser surgery can remove fluid from the eye, it might only have a brief impact.
A new opening can be made for fluid to naturally drain from the eye with more traditional surgery.
Your eye doctor can advise you on the best course of action.
OTHER EYE-RELATED ISSUES
Menopause impacts the eyes in other ways.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the major cause of visual loss in women over 55, is brought on by unknown reasons.
AMD develops when the retina’s fragile center, located at the back of the eye, begins to degrade.
You may have hazy vision and may lose your ability to see straight ahead if this layer, also known as the macula, starts to degenerate.
Although there is currently no cure for AMD, living a healthy lifestyle is a kind of prevention.
One of the most prevalent menopause symptoms is dry eye, and research has shown that women over the age of 50 are particularly susceptible to the condition.
The oily layer of your outside tear film and the salty solution of your inner tear film both decrease along with the levels of estrogen and androgen.
The effect is that the eyes dry out and turn red, puffy, and itchy.
You can choose from a variety of dry eye treatments to lessen your discomfort.
Most efforts are directed toward reducing or preserving tears and reducing inflammation.
Artificial tears in the form of eye drops, which replace the lost natural tears, are a more popular kind of treatment.
Your doctor might also suggest other methods such as using warm compresses.
Cataract symptoms are difficult to identify because they are painless and manifest gradually.
Common symptoms are
- blurred vision,
- difficulties seeing at night,
- sensitivity to light,
- the perception of haloes surrounding lights,
- double vision, and
- the perception of fading colors.
Even though surgery to remove cataracts is the only effective treatment, early symptoms can be alleviated by switching to new eyeglasses with a better prescription or reading in brighter light.
A surgeon can remove the clouded lens and swap it out for a clear artificial lens if these measures are ineffective and vision loss starts to interfere with your daily activities.
In fact, after cataract surgery, many patients report seeing better than they did before developing cataracts.
When a woman reaches perimenopause, her risk of eye illnesses and vision problems increases.
The most effective way to protect your vision is to be proactive.
A yearly eye exam is required to detect any eye disorders early, allowing for simple treatment and the preservation of your vision.
My glaucoma, diagnosed at a yearly check-up when I was in my late 40s, is currently managed with prescription eye drops that make my eyes red and itchy.
Unpleasant but necessary, especially as the glaucoma is progressing faster than expected.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the United States and I’m doing my best to minimize the damage.
For more information about glaucoma, visit the Glaucoma Foundation.
The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Cindy Moy Carr is the founder and CEO of Vorsdatter Limited which created mySysters, the first app for women in perimenopause. Cindy is an attorney, journalist and author, including the ABA’s Guide to Healthcare Law.