Our eyes are intricately connected to the rest of our body. This means that biological changes—like hormone fluctuations—affect our eyes, too. Here are a few ways hormones impact eye health.
- Estrogen affects the stiffness of the cornea—the clear layer on the front of our eye that focuses light. When estrogen levels change (during pregnancy, perimenopause, and menopause), the elasticity of the cornea changes, affecting your eyesight. This is why eye doctors don’t recommend getting LASIK surgery or a new eyeglass prescription while you’re pregnant. Fortunately, many of these changes resolve themselves postpregnancy.
- Estrogen and progesterone help regulate our eyes’ oil glands, which produce an essential component of our tears. The oil is important for preventing the water from evaporating too quickly—without enough oil, your eyes will not be as lubricated and will become dry. Changing levels of estrogen and progesterone in women—due to birth control, pregnancy, perimenopause, or menopause—can lead to dry eyes (although this is not the only cause of dry eyes).
- Insulin helps regulate our blood sugar levels. Fluctuations in blood sugar predominately affect our retina, which is the part of the eye that helps us create a visual image. An imbalance in insulin, seen in people with diabetes, can cause damage to the retina’s blood vessels and lead to diabetic retinopathy and vision loss. That’s why it’s extremely important for people with sugar imbalances—like type 1 and type 2 diabetes—to get their eyes examined regularly, in addition to managing their diabetes with a health care professional.
- Thyroid hormones can affect the appearance of our eyes. A thyroid hormone imbalance can impact the muscles that support and control the movement of our eyes. This may cause misalignment of the eyes or double vision; it can also cause the swelling and bulging of the eyes, or what’s called proptosis. In severe cases, the eyes bulge so much that they compress the optic nerve, which can lead to vision loss.
If you are experiencing shifts in your hormones and any eye symptoms along these lines, work with your general practitioner and eye doctor to try to get to the root cause of your symptoms and support bringing your hormones back into balance.
4 Ways to Care for Your Eyes
For general eye health, here are some preventive practices to help care for your eyes.
1. Eat a balanced diet, exercise, and sleep. Our bodies—including our eyes—benefit from eating a balanced diet, having regular physical activity, and sleeping well. This gives our eyes the foundational care—nutrients, blood flow, and repair—that’s needed for them to function.
2. Get regular eye exams. Visual symptoms and discomfort don’t always show up in the beginning stages of an eye condition. Eye doctors recommend that healthy adults with good vision get a routine eye exam (conducted by a licensed optometrist, who examines your vision) or a comprehensive medical eye exam (conducted by an ophthalmologist, an MD who assesses the overall health of your eye) at least once in their 20s and twice in their 30s. After the age of 40, we recommend exams every one to two years. This may be covered by your vision or medical insurance depending on your age, preexisting conditions, and diagnoses.
3. Use tear drops and eye compression. Keeping your eyes lubricated helps them stay healthy. Similar to using lotion to moisturize dry skin, using over-the-counter tear drops can help lubricate dry eyes. Using warm eye compresses as part of your morning routine can also help release oil from your eyelids’ glands and improve the quality of your tears.
4. Wear sunglasses. In addition to hormone changes, exposure to UV rays over time contributes to many age-related eye conditions, such as cataract, macular degeneration, and ocular surface diseases. Just as you wear sunscreen to prevent skin damage, wearing sunglasses and wide-brim hats protects your eyes from UV damage from the sun.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.