Little is known about the ocular surface changes over the menstrual cycle in young women and the interactions with lifestyle factors. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the associations between modifiable lifestyle factors and menstrual cycle phases on the ocular signs and symptoms of dry eye in young healthy women.
This was a prospective 1-month observational study. Thirty young healthy women with regular, 24 to 32-day menstrual cycles were recruited. Participants attended three visits at day 7, 14, and 21 (± 1) of their menstrual cycle. At baseline, general health questionnaire was conducted. At each visit, symptomology was quantified using Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) and overall ocular comfort (OOC, visual analogue scale). Ocular signs were assessed using Efron scales, tear break-up time (TBUT) and phenol red thread (PRT). Pearson’s correlation was used to determine associations between variables at each visit.
A total of 26 participants (mean age = 22.3 ± 3.7 years) with an average menstrual cycle of 28.3 ± 1.3 days completed the 3 visits. The interaction between signs/symptoms and lifestyle factors changed over the cycle. At the follicular phase (day 7), lifestyle factors such diet and levels of stress were correlated with PRT and OSDI, (r = - 0.4, p = 0.022; r = 0.4, p = 0.045 respectively). At the ovulation phase (day 14), the general health score was correlated with OOC scores (r = 0.4, p = 0.047). At day 14, exercise frequency correlated with PRT (r = - 0.4, p = 0.028) and caffeine intake was positively correlate with both; TBUT (r = 0.5, p = 0.020) and PRT (r = 0.5, p = 0.014). At the luteal phase (day 21), we found no correlations between lifestyle factors and dry eye signs or symptoms.
The associations between lifestyle factors and objective and subjective ocular surface assessment appeared to be more pronounced during the ovulation phase of the menstrual cycle compared to the follicular and luteal phases. Misalignment of these factors with the ocular health during the luteal phase could be attributed to central sensitization and changes in levels of luteinising hormone. Natural hormonal changes during menstrual cycle should be considered for diagnosis and treatment of dry eye in young healthy women.