Hormone Balance and Your Eyesight
Well, ladies, we’ve thought it all along and now we have proof: women really do see things differently than men do! Yes, I’m having a little fun with this, however, there really is a correlation between hormones — particularly the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone — and sight. Other hormones, including insulin and thyroid hormone, can have an enormous impact on vision and on your overall eye health.
Let’s take a quick look at how your eyes work. Then we’ll tackle vision changes that can be the result of normal hormonal fluctuations over the course of your life. I’ll walk you through the impact of autoimmunity and hormone issues on eye health. Finally, I’ll share how a multivitamin and Estroprotect can make a big impact. With a little knowledge and care, you’ll be looking forward to a healthy future!
How Does Your Eye Work?
In addition to being one of the most beautiful and expressive parts of our bodies, our eyes are truly amazing in the way they function. Think of vision as a multi-step process that involves your eye itself, your optic nerve, and your brain.
The front of your eye is covered by your cornea, a clear, rounded surface. Light enters here and is regulated by the iris, the colored part of your eye. The light that is filtered by the iris then hits the lens, another transparent structure. Its job is to focus light rays onto the retina, a sensitive nerve layer that lines the back of the eye.
The image that lands on your retina appears upside-down. The retina has two types of cells. One is the rods, which rim the retina and are active in dim light. The other is cones, which are mostly in the center of your retina and help you see colors and details.
From the retina, your optic nerve carries signals of light, dark, and colors to the visual cortex area of your brain. Here the signal is assembled into right-side-up images. This is what you actually perceive as vision. Other parts of your brain then process what you are seeing into information you can use, such as “Here’s an animal with big teeth. Run away!”
Female Hormones and Eyesight
Myopia, or nearsightedness, occurs more frequently in girls (7.4%) than boys (5.1%).1 This is believed to be due to the effects of female sex hormones on the eye’s delicate structure. During puberty, the surge in estrogen can affect cornea thickness, leading to permanent changes in the eye.2 During menstruation when estrogen hormone levels elevate, your vision may become blurry. You may also find your lachrymal glands produce more tears during this time, leading to watery eyes.
During pregnancy, your body is flooded with hormones including human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG), progesterone, estrogen, oxytocin, prolactin, and relaxin. These
increased hormone levels can cause blurred vision as well as difficulty in focusing. Higher levels of these hormones can also affect your vision by making your eyes more sensitive to light.
You may also find that the rising hormone levels of pregnancy cause you to retain more water. This fluid may build up behind the eye or in the eyeball itself, creating changes to the cornea’s shape. This, too, can also cause blurry vision. These changes are likely to be simply a temporary annoyance.
However, if you experience sudden vision changes during pregnancy, it may be a sign of preeclampsia. Research is ongoing, however, preeclampsia is thought to be an autoimmune or inflammatory condition, in addition to having a hormonal component.3 This serious condition, which affects 2-8% of all pregnancies,4 is marked by high blood pressure and organ damage, usually to the liver or kidneys. Symptoms can include light sensitivity, blurry vision, seeing auras or flashing lights, and even a temporary loss of vision. See your healthcare professional immediately if you experience these symptoms.
On the other side of the spectrum, a drop in estrogen levels, such as those that occur during perimenopause and menopause, can result in reduced tear production. Tears help flush particles from your eye and keep them lubricated. Dry eye, or lack of tears, can result in a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including sensitivity to sun and wind, burning, stinging, and scratchiness. The decreased ability to clear irritants from the eye can lead to scratches on the surface of your eye called corneal abrasions.
Extreme dry eyes can be a symptom of Sjögren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that occurs when your immune system attacks your moisture-producing glands. It usually begins in the salivary and lacrimal (tear-producing) glands, causing painfully dry eyes and mouth. It’s believed to be related to a drop in female sex hormones as it often affects women in or approaching menopause.5
In a strange twist, for some people, the dry eyes caused by reduced estrogen can actually lead to watery eyes. If dry eye persists, your tear ducts may begin to overcompensate by producing a greater quantity of tears than usual, overwhelming your tear drainage system.
A Window on your Health
While poets may call your eyes “the window to your soul,” healthcare professionals can use your eyes as a window into the state of your health. As we discussed earlier, the eye has two transparent structures. This provides an unrestricted view into your blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue, where the impact of hormone imbalances, as well as autoimmune conditions and other issues, may be seen.
The hormone insulin, secreted by your pancreas, enables your body to process the sugar in your blood to be used by your body for energy. When you don’t produce enough insulin, or you can’t access the insulin you create, your blood sugar levels remain unusually high and can result in diabetes.
This can affect your sight in several ways. Chronically high blood sugar from diabetes is associated with damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina, leading to a condition called diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy can cause blood vessels in the retina to bleed, distorting your vision.
It can also cause new, abnormal blood vessels to grow along the inside surface of the retina and into the vitreous gel, the fluid that fills the eye. These new blood vessels are fragile and likely to leak and bleed. The resulting scar tissue can contract and cause your retina to pull away from the surrounding tissue. Retinal detachment can lead to permanent vision loss.6
Another common vision issue that results from insulin deficiencies is called macular edema. The part of your retina that is responsible for the sharp, central vision you need for reading, driving, and recognizing faces, is called the macula. The build-up of fluid in any part of the body is called edema. As a result of diabetes, fluid can build up in the macula causing it to swell and thicken, which distorts vision.
Thyroid hormone is crucially involved in the development of eyesight, and controls which visual pigment, or opsin, is produced in the cones within your retina.7 Recent research also suggests opsin production in mature cones continues to depend on thyroid hormone level, so color vision may be affected by deficiencies in thyroid hormone.8
In fact, eye problems are often early signs of thyroid dysfunction. Thyroid eye disease (TED) is an autoimmune disease. It can cause dry eyes, watery eyes, red or pink eyes, baggy or puffy eyes, bulging eyes, a fixed stare, double vision, and blurry vision. It is mainly associated with an over-active thyroid such as in Graves’ disease, but it can also occur in people with underactive thyroid function.
Because the eye may be pushed forward, and because the eyelids are pulled open by the muscles, you may have difficulty closing your eyelids. This can lead to corneal ulcers, which causes scarring and permanent loss of vision. Swollen tissues can also compress the optic nerve, affecting color perception, and causing “floaters” and an overall dimming of vision.
What You Can Do for Hormonal Eye Health
Visit an eye care professional annually. He or she can not only test your vision and offer corrective lenses if needed, they will also monitor your overall eye health. They can alert you to other health problems such as high blood pressure, and the signs of insulin and thyroid imbalances that can show up in your eyes.
You can get some relief from dry eye symptoms by preventing your tears from evaporating. Use a humidifier and avoid overly dry, warm rooms, hairdryers, smoke, and wind. Unpreserved saline solution drops can offer relief to irritated, bloodshot eyes. I recommend purchasing sterile, single-use doses.
A diet that eliminates the toxic and inflammatory foods that are the common culprits behind autoimmune disease can help reverse the insulin resistance and thyroid disorders that impact your vision. Gluten and dairy are the top two most inflammatory foods. I recommend completely removing these from your diet and never adding them back in.
I strongly recommend The Myers Way® Multivitamin for general health and particularly for your thyroid. It has optimal levels of thyroid supporting minerals such as zinc, selenium, and iodine, alongside antioxidants like vitamins C and E and other free radical scavengers. No other multi on the market does more to support your thyroid.
Finally, add EstroProtect to your daily regimen. EstroProtect helps your body strike a balance between estrogen and progesterone by supporting the elimination of excess estrogen and healthy estrogen metabolism. It can help minimize vision issues that may arise from imbalances of female sex hormones.
Be alert to vision changes and know that you can impact your vision with some healthy lifestyle changes that will support hormonal balance.