Hormones are chemical messengers created in the endocrine glands that control and coordinate most of the body’s functions, including sleep, mood, hunger and reproduction. Increased or insufficient hormone levels can affect nearly every part of the body, including the eyes.
Here, the team at Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons reveals some of the surprising ways hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout life can affect the eyes and vision.
Influence the Length of the Eyeball during Puberty
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), just as an adolescent’s body undergoes a rapid growth spurt during puberty, surging hormones can cause the eyeball to lengthen, creating myopia or nearsightedness.
Cause Dry, Irritated Eyes during Childbearing Years
Many women experience changes in their eyesight during their childbearing years, the AAO says, due to hormonal fluctuations caused by birth control pills or pregnancy. Shifting levels of estrogen and progesterone can affect the glands in the eyes and eyelids, leading to dry, irritated eyes. Estrogen, the main sex hormone in women, can cause the cornea to become more elastic, changing the way light travels through the eye. Both of these changes can lead to blurry vision and difficulty wearing contact lenses. Hormonal changes during perimenopause or menopause can also cause vision to fluctuate.
The Thyroid’s Effect on Ocular Health and Vision
The thyroid gland is responsible for making hormones that help control metabolism. If the thyroid gland does not produce the correct amount or type of hormone, it can have notable effects on the eyes and vision.
In Graves’ disease, an antibody attacks the thyroid gland, causing it to produce too much thyroid hormone. Approximately 30 percent of people with Graves’ disease experience changes in the muscles and tissues around the eyes, according to the Mayo Clinic. These changes can cause bulging eyes, pain or pressure in the eyes, puffy or retracted lids or a gritty sensation in the eyes.
Also, according to the AAO, there is evidence to suggest that thyroid hormone levels can have other effects on vision. For example, one study suggests high levels of the T4 thyroid hormone may increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration; another suggests thyroid hormone levels affect the development and regulation of cones, or cells in the eyes responsible for color vision.
Contact Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons
If you have noticed unusual or sudden changes in your vision, we encourage you to see our doctors for a comprehensive eye exam. We can determine the underlying factor that is affecting your vision, and we can discuss ways to minimize or resolve your symptoms. We may also recommend you see your primary care doctor for a medical work-up to check your hormone levels.
Call or email Berks Eye Physicians and Surgeons today to schedule an appointment for an eye exam.