Looks like women with PCOS can add yet another symptom to an already long list of complications associated with PCOS: Dry Eye.
Dry eye is a common condition, affecting an estimated 9 million Americans. Typically, individuals with dry eye experience some or all of the following:
- vision problems
- burning or pain
- light sensitivity
- scratchy grainy sensation
- heavy or tired eyes
Contact lenses can make dry eye worse as they suck more moisture out of an already dry eye. Those with dry eyes know that the condition can affect the quality of life as dry eyes can impact your work and every aspect of your life. If not treated and managed, people with dry eyes can develop repeated eye infections that can eventually lead to scarring of your cornea and vision problems.
Risk factors for Dry Eye
- Increasing age
- Being a woman
- Hormone changes
- Taking medications that can cause dry eyes (birth control pills, antihistamines)
- Having laser eye surgery
- Undergoing radiation therapy
- Eating a diet that is low in omega-3 fatty acids and high in omega-6 fats
The Connection with PCOS and Dry Eye
Several studies have compared eye health of women with PCOS and non-PCOS women. All the studies have confirmed that women with PCOS have drier eyes than women without the syndrome (1-3). The reason is because of hormonal changes, which can affect eye surface and the function of tear glands. PCOS is also associated with inflammation which can cause inflammation in the eyes. Individuals with insulin resistance and diabetes also tend to exhibit more dry eyes.
If you feel you have dry eye, see an eye doctor immediately for treatment and to avoid further eye damage. Below are some natural ways to manage dry eyes.
Natural Treatment for Dry Eye
- Apply warm compresses to eyes frequently throughout the day
- Wash your eyelids with a mild soap (baby shampoo is frequently recommended)
- Use artificial tears (rewetting drops) liberally (these don’t cure but relieve)
- Limit contact lens use as much as possible
- Take breaks from TV and computer screens
- Get more sleep
- Don’t forget to blink!
- Avoid sitting in direct contact with heat vents, air conditioners or fans
- Increase intake of omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats which are found in fish, walnuts, egg yolk and canola oil, can reduce inflammation. Fish oil is absorbed best.1,000-4,000mg per day is recommended. Many of our patients report more comfort and less dryness in a few weeks of taking fish oil. For more information on omega-3 fats and PCOS click here.
If you feel you’ve tried everything, you can ask your doctor about an eye drop medication called Restasis which, if used twice daily, can improve dry eye but takes months to see results.