Does pregnancy affect eyesight? It may be surprising, but yes, it does. Here’s what you need to know about certain vision changes in pregnancy and how to protect your eyes when you’re expecting.
Does Pregnancy Affect Eyesight?
Pregnancy and eyesight are not commonly thought of together. Pregnancy is one of the most exciting, and challenging times in a woman’s life as the body undergoes a huge amount of changes: the metabolic rate increases, hormones are in flux, not to mention the weight gain, swelling and changes in body shape.
Amongst these many changes, the eyes may also experience some changes, related to hormonal alterations. Some of these are mild and temporary and should return to normal after your baby is born. However, some vision problems can be potentially serious and need medical attention.
Here are some eye problems to look out for during pregnancy:
You may notice a stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes, and it gets more easily irritated than usual, especially if you’re wearing contact lenses. According to Mayo Clinic, dry eye disease is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes.
In general, dry eye symptoms attributed to hormonal fluctuations during pregnancy are mild. Using over-the-counter preservative-free eyedrops would suffice in most instances.
If you wear contact lenses, you may ask your health practitioner first if the eyedrops are suitable for contact lenses. Some women who use contact lenses are advised to reduce or even stop and switch to glasses during pregnancy if dry eyes were significant.
Refractive Changes or Blurry Vision During Pregnancy
Image source: iStock
Noticed a slight blurring in your eyesight despite having perfect vision pre-pregnancy? Blurry vision can be one of the temporary side effects of pregnancy. One of the common culprits is fluid retention, which can change the thickness and shape of your cornea, leading to distorted vision.
Hormonal fluctuations can give rise to changes in one’s eye degree. This is usually caused by swelling in various eye tissues such as the cornea and the lens.
However, if it’s just a slight blurring, you don’t have to worry as these changes usually go away after delivery or after you stop breastfeeding. In extreme cases, the change may require a change of eyewear prescription.
Refractive surgeries must not be performed during pregnancy and nursing, as the eye power may not be stable, and surgical results are unpredictable. For women contemplating pregnancy who are also highly dependent on optical aid like glasses and contact lenses, do consider the changes in lifestyle that are inevitable after the arrival of the bundle of joy.
Fatigue combined with frequent night awakenings for baby care may make groping for the pair of glasses in darkness a potential hazard. If required, consider refractive surgeries like LASIK at least 3-6 months prior to pregnancy.
Do your eyelids seem thick and heavy during pregnancy? It may be because of the hormonal changes you are going through that causes water retention that leads to swelling. While it doesn’t seem bothersome and sounds more like a cosmetic issue, puffy eyelids may still interfere with side vision.
To prevent puffy eyelids from becoming a serious problem, remember to drink enough water and stick to a moderate, low-sodium, low-caffeine diet that fights water retention.
Image source: Stock
For the young diabetics and those who contract pregnancy-related diabetes (gestational diabetes), changes in the retinal blood vessels may occur due to the surge in hormones. These changes may potentially give rise to the growth of fragile, abnormal retinal blood vessels with tendencies to bleed, leading to blurred vision.
Regular eye examinations with dilation are very important so that such risks can be detected early and if necessary, treatment with laser instituted to prevent visual compromise during the busy period following childbirth. Also, make sure to consult your doctor about keeping your blood sugar in check to prevent the negative effects of gestational diabetes.
According to the American Optometry Association, preeclampsia or high blood pressure during pregnancy is known to cause retinal vascular changes and visual symptoms, including blurred vision, photopsia, diplopia or even blindness.
The eye pressure may change during pregnancy, and hence, an eye check is indicated, particularly for those who have a diagnosis of pre-existing glaucoma. In general, these changes are temporary and should subside after pregnancy.
However, a study found that women diagnosed with severe or early-onset preeclampsia had a higher risk of getting a retinal disease even after their delivery.
For this reason, it is important to keep your blood pressure in check during pregnancy, to avoid vision problems, as well as other complications associated with pre-eclampsia.
Moreover, if aside from blurred vision you also experience headaches, light sensitivity, dark spots appearing in your vision, abdominal pain, oedema or swelling in your hands and feet and shortness of breath, do not hesitate to consult your doctor immediately.
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Taking Care of Your Eyes During Pregnancy
Our eyes don’t get enough attention during the period of pregnancy, but knowing about the eye problems mentioned earlier may encourage us not to overlook our eyesight. Here are some things to remember:
- Always check with your doctor before using over-the-counter dry eye solutions, as some may contain chemicals that could be harmful during pregnancy.
- Apply a cold compress (such as a clean, wet washcloth with cold water) or a cool gel pack over your closed eyes to reduce puffiness. This can be a great way to destress too. You may also splash cold water over your face, especially when you’re feeling hot.
- Drink plenty of water and limit sodium and caffeine in your diet to prevent water retention in your body.
- Let your eye doctor know that you are pregnant so he or she may advise you on the changes you should expect, what’s normal and what needs medical attention.
- Get enough sleep.
Use of Medicated Eyedrops During Pregnancy
Occasionally, pregnant ladies may contract infectious eye diseases such as conjunctivitis or even corneal ulcers. In such situations, it is important that they get treatment, and sometimes antimicrobial eye drops may be necessary. However, certain antibiotics are not suitable during pregnancy. Hence self-medication is strongly discouraged. Please see an eye doctor should you get an eye infection during pregnancy.
Pregnancy and eyesight may not be on the top of your mind once you find out there’s a little bundle of joy growing inside you, nevertheless, you should take care of your eyes along with the rest of your body.
Updates by Camille Eusebio
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