Pregnancy and Your Eyes
- Posted on: Mar 22 2021
Pregnancy and Your Eyes
Pregnancy brings so many exciting changes to a woman’s life, many of them physical. You expect your body to change while you are pregnant, but you may not realize that being pregnant can affect your eyes. In this blog, we’ll discuss common pregnancy related changes to your eyes and vision.
One of the most common visual changes a woman may experience during pregnancy is blurry vision. This is primarily because of hormonal changes which cause water retention in the cornea, ultimately leading to refractive changes. These changes are usually limited to the duration of the pregnancy, and will generally return to normal after childbirth. While vision changes are not unusual during pregnancy, they are sometimes an indication of a more serious issue, such as preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a complication of pregnancy that involves dangerously high blood pressure. Symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- Changes in vision including blurry vision or partial loss of vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Severe headaches
- High blood pressure
- Nausea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Protein in urine
It can be difficult to know if these symptoms are normal pregnancy changes or something more serious. If you notice visual changes during your pregnancy, contact your doctor. Regular prenatal visits are essential for your health, and visiting your eye doctor for an exam may also help to prevent serious pregnancy complications.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 1% to 2% of pregnant women in the US have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and about 6% to 9% of pregnant women develop gestational diabetes. Pregnant women who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in the US. While women who develop gestational diabetes do not develop retinopathy, they are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes after childbirth, which can then lead to the development of retinopathy. Women who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and should see their eye doctor before getting pregnant, and again during each trimester of pregnancy to monitor for signs of retinopathy. Women who develop gestational diabetes should see an eye doctor after pregnancy to monitor for signs of type 2 diabetes.
Women can develop high blood pressure, or hypertension, before, during, or after pregnancy. Hypertension can lead to a number of pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia, preterm delivery, and stroke. This condition is often diagnosed during routine eye exams, because eye doctors have the unique ability to view changes in blood vessels that aren’t covered by skin. When possible, women should have a dilated eye exam before becoming pregnant, as early detection and treatment are key. Women who have a history of preeclampsia should notify their eye doctor, as this may indicate an increased risk of retinal disease, even years after childbirth. According to this article published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, preeclampsia, particularly severe or early-onset preeclampsia, is associated with an increased risk of maternal retinal disease in the decades after pregnancy. According to the CDC, you are more at risk for preeclampsia if:
- This is the first time you have given birth.
- You had preeclampsia during a previous pregnancy.
- You have chronic (long-term) high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, or both.
- You have a history of thrombophilia (a condition that increases risk of blood clots).
- You are pregnant with multiple babies (such as twins or triplets).
- You became pregnant using in vitro fertilization.
- You have a family history of preeclampsia.
- You have type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
- You have obesity.
- You have lupus (an autoimmune disease).
- You are older than 40.
Hormonal changes may also lead to symptoms of dry eye. This can be alleviated with the use of over-the-counter artificial tears. It is best to use drops that do not contain a preservative, as this can prevent irritation and rebound effect. Dry eyes may cause discomfort when wearing contact lenses. Some women find that it is more comfortable to switch to glasses while pregnant. For women who prefer to wear contact lenses, daily disposable lenses may be more comfortable.
The best way to keep yourself and your unborn baby healthy is by attending all prenatal visits and following your doctor’s recommendations when it comes to your care. If you are pregnant, or plan to become pregnant, an eye exam is an important step to a healthy and safe pregnancy. To schedule, call or text: (907) 328-2920. You can read more about eyecare on our website at: www.mountainvieweyes.com/blog.
Centers for Disease Control www.cdc.gov
Auger, Nathalie MD, MSc; Fraser, William D. MD, MSc; Paradis, Gilles MD, MSc; Healy-Profitós, Jessica MPH; Hsieh, Ada; Rhéaume, Marc-André MD, 2017, Preeclampsia and Long-term Risk of Maternal Retinal Disorders, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Vol. 129.
Gina Stafford COA, LDO, ABOC