Dry Eyes and Pregnancy - What’s Normal and What’s Not
Women experience many physical changes during pregnancy. It’s hard to distinguish between what’s normal and what’s not. With vision changes, it’s hard to separate the minor symptoms from those that are a cause for concern.
Expectant mothers may experience dry eyes, refractive changes or blurred vision. Usually these problems disappear after they give birth. But on rare occasions these symptoms may signal a more serious health condition.
Are your eyes drier than usual? Are you experiencing vision changes? Read on to find out what’s normal and what’s not for your eyesight changes during pregnancy.
Dry Eyes and Pregnancy
Dry eye syndrome is one of the most common ways that pregnancy can affect your vision. The disorder occurs when not enough tears are made to keep the surface of your eyes lubricated. Dry eye syndrome starts with itchiness that can escalate into burning or stinging. The eyes become red and you may have blurred vision and extreme light sensitivity.
Dry eyes affects more women than men. It is linked to hormonal changes experienced by women during pregnancy. If you only experience dry eyes during pregnancy, it’s probably temporary. After you’ve delivered your baby, your symptoms will likely disappear. But if your symptoms persist or they affect your vision, visit your optometrist. If left untreated, dry eye can lead to scarring of the cornea which can cause blindness.
Your doctor may prescribe artificial tears or eye drops that are safe for use by pregnant women. If you wear contacts, you may want to swap your monthly or weekly lenses for daily disposables. Disposable lenses are individually packaged in sterile solution. You wear a fresh pair of lenses every day. Thus, disposables are less prone to aggravating your dry eye symptoms.
Refractive Changes and Pregnancy
It’s normal for expectant mothers to experience slight refractive changes. You may have blurry vision or trouble focusing your eyes. Increased water retention is normal in pregnancy. This can lead to physiological changes in your corneas and natural lenses.
It’s a good idea to visit your optometrist if your vision changes are causing you concern. Your doctor can give you peace of mind that the changes are normal and minor. You may even wish to change your contact lenses and/or glasses.
But corrective surgeries or prescription changes are not recommended for pregnant women. This is because these symptoms often disappear after women give birth. If you intend to breastfeed, inform your doctor. They may advise that you change your vision prescription after you've finished breastfeeding.
Vision Changes and Preeclampsia
If changes to your vision are dramatic or unusual, it may be a sign that you have preeclampsia. Preeclampsia (or toxemia) is a pregnancy complication characterised by abrupt high blood pressure. Preeclamptic women may notice light sensitivity. They may also see auras, flashing lights or spots, and have blurry vision.
According to the Preeclampsia Foundation, this condition progresses rapidly and is very dangerous. If you experience these vision changes, see your OB-GYN immediately or go to the ER.
Women who experience preeclampsia are more likely to have eye problems later in life. A Canadian study showed that former preeclamptic women were 1.6 times more likely to suffer retinal detachment. These women were also twice as likely to experience other diseases of the retina.
Diabetes and Pregnancy
If you are diabetic and pregnant, changes to your vision could be a sign of retinal damage. High blood sugar levels put pregnant women at risk of damage to the small blood vessels in their eyes. This retinal damage can be permanent and, in some cases, it causes blindness.
Even women who never had diabetes can develop temporary gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Women with high blood sugar may notice the following vision changes:
- Blurred or fluctuating vision
- Impaired colour vision
- Black spots and strings (floaters) in the eye
- Dark or empty areas in the vision field
- Vision loss
The Canadian Association of Optometrists recommends that diabetic women have an eye exam each trimester. Your doctor will track the health of the blood vessels in your eyes. You will also get treatment options to reduce the risk of retinal damage.
Monitor Eyesight Changes During Pregnancy
Usually eyesight changes during pregnancy are not related to pre-existing conditions. But it's important to discuss any vision changes with your doctor to rule out any serious issues. Also keep your doctor informed on any changes to your health. Only take approved prescription or non-prescription drugs.
Women with pre-existing conditions, should discuss their pregnancy plans with their doctors. This will allow for effective pre-pregnancy monitoring of their eyesight. They will also need continuous monitoring throughout their pregnancies.
Maintain Your Eye Health During Pregnancy
Comprehensive prenatal care keeps you healthy during your pregnancy. It also gives your baby the best possible start in life. Be informed of all your pre-existing health conditions. You should also be aware of the ways in which your pregnancy could alter them.
Dry eyes is just one vision change that you may experience. Always monitor your vision and other health changes. You should discuss all symptoms with your doctor. Please visit our blog for more information on how to keep your eyes healthy.