How does pregnancy affect the eyes?

Women’s bodies undergo a lot of changes while pregnant. Some are pretty obvious, but I have
found that many people do not realize that a lot of women have changes with their vision and their
eyes. Most of these changes are mild and will return to normal after delivery, but others can signify
more serious issues so I would like to go over these changes, so you know what to look for and when to
see your eye doctor.

Does Pregnancy Cause Dry Eyes

Dry eye is one of the more common problems I see with my pregnant patients. The hormonal
changes that happen during pregnancy can cause a decrease in the amount of tears that your eyes
produce and this can lead to gritty, irritated, eyes. Other symptoms of dry eye can include watery eyes,
blurry vision, and burning eyes. The glands that line your upper and lower lids can also reduce the
amount of lubricating oil that they produce leading to dry eye symptoms as well. Luckily, most patients
can find relief in over-the-counter artificial tears. I like the brands Refresh and Systane best. Warm
compresses are great to help soothe irritated eyes as well. If you are a contact lens wearer, you may
notice that your lenses are more uncomfortable due to the eyes being more dry than normal. You can
use artificial tears with contacts in, just make sure it specifies that they can be used with contacts. I also
recommend taking breaks from the contacts when you can and wearing glasses. If still experiencing
issues, daily disposable lenses are a great option as they are more comfortable for drier eyes.

Will Being Pregnant Change My Glasses Prescription?

Do you feel like you aren’t seeing as well as you used to before you get pregnant? It could be
because you are having refractive changes, or changes in the prescription needed to correct your vision.
You retain water throughout your body, and your cornea (the front surface of your eye) is no exception.
The cornea will become thicker and change your vision. I usually don’t recommend getting new
prescription glasses or contacts quite yet, as most of the time these changes are pretty mild and will
correct themselves once you deliver or stop breast feeding. I also don’t recommend getting LASIK while
pregnant because of this reason.

Migraines and Pregnancy

Migraines can be more common in the first trimester but thankfully tend to ease up in the
second and third trimesters. I have suffered from these with this pregnancy, and they are no fun! Light
sensitivity can go hand in hand with these migraines. I recommend talking to your OBGYN about
medication that is safe to use while pregnant as well as wearing sunglasses or turning the lights down.

Eye Pressure

Inside the eye, there is fluid that constantly flows in and out of the eye to help it keep its shape.
We call this “eye pressure”. During pregnancy, we can see a decrease in overall eye pressure. Typically,
this causes no issues, but if you are being treated for glaucoma (a condition where the eye pressure is
higher than normal), you should go over your medications with your doctor to make sure they are safe
to use. This will typically go back to normal around two months post-partum.

Serious conditions related to vision changes

There are two conditions that are very serious that can manifest with eye changes. These are
preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. Preeclampsia, brought on by high blood pressure, occurs around
the 20 th week of gestation and in about 5% of pregnancies. It can come on fast and pose a risk to your
health and the baby. Ocular symptoms include loss of vision, light sensitivity, blurry vision, and flashing
lights. Treatment with blood pressure medications may work, or if far enough along they may decide to
induce delivery. Gestational diabetes, while temporary, can damage the blood vessels on the inside of
the eye. Blurry vision can be a sign of this as well. These two examples are huge reasons why you need
to let your doctor know if you are having any vision changes. It is probably not a cause for concern, but it
is better to be safe than sorry.

While pregnancy comes with lots of changes to the body, it can be an amazing experience. Just
listen to your body, make sure to get rest, stay hydrated, and eat a healthy diet.

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Dr. Thirion

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