No Tears Shed for PCOS: Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and Dry Eye

Looks like women with PCOS can add yet another symptom to an already long list of complications associated with PCOS: Dry Eye Syndrome.

Dry eye is a common condition, affecting an estimated 9 million Americans. 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. Contact lenses can make dry eye worse as they suck more moisture out of an already dry eye.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Dry Eyes

  • dryness
  • discomfort
  • itching
  • redness
  • vision problems
  • burning or pain
  • light sensitivity
  • scratchy grainy sensation
  • heavy or tired eyes

Risk factors for Dry Eyes

  • Increasing age
  • Being a woman
  • Contact lenses wearers
  • Hormone changes
  • Diabetes
  • 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. Why? The reason is because of an imbalance of sex hormones, which can affect eye surface and the function of tear glands. Increasing evidence indicates that the structure of the eye are under a sex hormone control. High androgens affect the lipid layers of tear glands.

A study published in the Turkish Journal of Ophthalmology found that PCOS leads to physiological and structural changes in the eye. In their study, dry eye symptoms were more severe and central corneal thickness measurements were greater in patients with PCOS. They also found eye dryness correlated with serum testosterone and estradiol levels.

PCOS is also associated with inflammation which can cause inflammation in the eyes as well as insulin resistance. Dry eye syndrome is estimated to affect 54% of individuals with type 2 diabetes.

If you feel you have dry eye, see an eye doctor for treatment and to avoid further eye damage. Below are some natural ways to manage dry eyes.

Natural Treatment for Dry Eyes

  • 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 avocado can reduce inflammation. Fish and fish oil is absorbed best. Many of our patients report more comfort and less dryness in a few weeks of taking fish oil.Nordic ProOmega D 120 ct bottle image

Two great books for understanding dry eye and treatment methods are The Dry Eye Remedy: The Complete Guide to Restoring the Health and Beauty of Your Eyes by Robert Latkany and Reversing Dry Eye Syndrome: Practical Ways to Improve Your Comfort, Vision, and Appearance (Yale University Press Health & Wellness) by Steven L. Maskin.

Do you have dry eyes? What have you found that helps? Please leave a comment below.

References

Karaca Adıyeke S, et al. Anterior Segment Findings in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
Turk J Ophthalmol. 2017 Jan;47(1):24-27

Yuksel B, Ozturk I, Seven A, Aktas S, Aktas H, Kucur SK, Polat M, Kilic S. Tear function alterations in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2015 Oct;19(19):3556-62.

Mantelli F, Moretti C, Macchi I, Massaro-Giordano G, Cozzupoli MG, Lambiase A, Bonini S. Effects of Sex Hormones on Ocular Surface Epithelia: Lessons Learned from Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. J Cell Physiol. 2015 Oct 22.

Gonen T, Celik C, Oznur M, Abali R, Gonen KA, Horozoglu F, Aksu E, Keskinbora KH.Tear osmolarity and ocular surface changes in patient with polycystic ovary syndrome. Curr Eye Res. 2013 Jun;38(6):621-5.

Coksuer H, Ozcura F, Oghan F, Haliloglu B, Karatas S.
Effects of hyperandrogenism on tear function and tear drainage in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome.J Reprod Med. 2011 Jan-Feb;56(1-2):65-70.

Yavas GF, Ozturk F, Kusbeci T, Ermis SS, Yilmazer M, Cevrioglu S, Aktepe F, Kose S.Meibomian gland alterations in polycystic ovary syndrome. Curr Eye Res. 2008 Feb;33(2):133-8.

Bonini S, Mantelli F, Moretti C, Lambiase A, Bonini S, Micera A. Itchy-dry eye associated with polycystic ovary syndrome. Am J Ophthalmol. 2007 May;143(5):763-771.

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Comments (4)
  • Rachel Silva

    February 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    When I began to read this I just thought…. Gosh… does everything in my Body bleed PCOS? Every thing that I have that is unanswered seems to turning up as a PCOS symptom…. very helpful article though… I never thought about the baby shampoo but it makes sense ans I know people who get frequent styes use that! Thank you for the information!

  • Liz Lindow

    May 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    As a chronic suffer of dry eyes to the point where they would get so irritated, I couldn’t drive or sit in a room with any light coming through and they would over water to compensate, I cannot recommend Restasis highly enough. You have to get it through a preion through an eye doctor and use the drops consistently, but it is the only thing that has ever turned my constantly red eyes (since I was 14!) into cool, white eyes. If you wear contacts, changing out the solution every time you take them out and cleaning them is super important because you are more susceptible to eye infections due to the dryness. My eye doctor told me my tears weren’t good quality which is why my eyes had a hard time recovering, Restasis plus using non-preservative eye drop lubricants was the answer to a 15 year problem for me.

  • Chris Collins

    October 5, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    I had every symptom possible with PCOS but wasn’t diagnosed until I was sent to an endocrinologist at 31yo. I then underwent an ovarian wedge resection which did relief a lot of my symptoms. One that remained was dry eye & it only got worse with age. I never go anywhere w/o my lubricating eye drops. I literally can’t see clearly w/o them. I also developed cataracts early, requiring surgery at 60yo. I’m now wondering if PCOS had anything to do with that (?).

  • Angela Grassi

    October 5, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    Chris, do you take fish oil? That can make a big difference.

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