Dry Eye and Hormones

If you're bothered by dry eye, it's possible your hormones are to blame. These chemical messengers travel all over the body, so it's no surprise they can also affect your eyes.

The chief ones are thyroid hormone, insulin, and sex hormones like estrogen. When you get treatment for your hormone problem, you'll get some relief from dry eye, too.

Sex Hormones

If you're a woman, you're more likely to get dry eye, especially as you get older. That's because your levels of estrogen and other sex hormones change so much over your lifetime.

For instance, you have a greater chance of getting dry eye when you go through menopause. It's a time of life when hormone levels, especially estrogen, go up and down.

If you're pregnant, you're also more likely to get dry eye because of hormone changes. The same goes for women who take birth control pills and also wear contact lenses.

For some women, eyes may get dryer at certain times during their monthly period, mainly when estrogen levels go up.

Experts aren't sure exactly how changing hormones affect dry eye. Some studies show that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) for menopause symptoms makes dry eye worse, while other studies show it makes it better. It does seem that women who take only estrogen are more likely to get dry eye, while those who take a combo of estrogen and progesterone (another female sex hormone) are less likely to get it.

Dry eye may also be made better or worse by androgens, "male" hormones like testosterone, which both men and women make. For instance, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often have dry eye. The disorder causes cysts and problems with ovulation because of too much androgens.

Whether you're a man or woman, lower androgen levels may affect how well certain glands make tears or the oily film that keeps the surface of your eye moist.

Thyroid Hormone

Changes in your levels of thyroid hormone, which is made by the thyroid gland in your neck, can also cause dry eye. The changes can be due to a thyroid-related autoimmune disease. If you have one, the immune system -- your body's defense against germs -- mistakenly thinks your thyroid gland is an enemy and attacks it.

Continued

For instance, Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that's linked in its early stages with high thyroid levels, but over time or after treatment may have low thyroid levels. People who have it may have trouble closing their eyelids, don't blink often enough, and also can't keep their tear levels up. The eyes may actually bulge forward. All of these problems can lead to dry eye.

Hashimoto's disease is another autoimmune disorder that causes low thyroid levels and dry eye.

Insulin

If you have diabetes, either type 1 or type 2, there's a good chance you'll also get dry eye. The reason may have to do with the amount of insulin you have.

Low insulin levels make it harder for your lacrimal gland to make tears. Taking insulin may reverse some of these problems.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Alan Kozarsky, MD on July 04, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

Medscape: "Hormones and Dry Eye Syndrome."

American Academy of Ophthalmology: "Pregnancy."

Prevent Blindness: "Pregnancy and Your Vision."

Cornea: "Tear Osmolarity and Dry Eye Symptoms in Women Using Oral Contraception and Contact Lenses."

Gynecological Endocrinology: "Ocular surface changes over the menstrual cycle in women with and without dry eye."

University of Wisconsin Health: "Dry Eye and Post-menopausal Women."

North American Menopause Society: "Changes in Hormone Levels."

Current Opinion in Ophthalmology: "Hormones and dry eye syndrome: an update on what we do and don't know."

Menopause: "Dry eye in postmenopausal women: a hormonal disorder," "Examining the relationship between hormone therapy and dry-eye syndrome in postmenopausal women: a cross-sectional comparison study."

British Journal of Ophthalmology: "The effects of transdermal testosterone and oestrogen therapy on dry eye in postmenopausal women: a randomised, placebo-controlled, pilot study."

UptoDate: "Dry eyes."

Medicine: "Hormone replacement therapy benefits meibomian gland dysfunction in perimenopausal women."

National Eye Institute: "Facts About Dry Eye."

Endometriosis Foundation of America: "What is endometriosis? Causes, Symptoms and Treatments."

womenshealth.gov: "Polycystic ovary syndrome."

Cornea: "Androgen Deficiency and Dry Eye Syndrome in the Aging Male."

Hormone Health Network: "What Does the Thyroid Gland Do?"

New England Journal of Medicine: "Graves' Ophthalmology."

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders: "Hashimoto's Disease."

Journal of Ophthalmology: "Presence of Dry Eye in Patients with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis," "Dry Eye Syndrome in Patients with Diabetes Mellitus: Prevalence, Etiology, and Clinical Characteristics."

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center: "Triple A syndrome."

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination