Atanas Bogoev M.D. and Maria Cholakova
Expecting the Unexpected: Potential Eye Problems During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, women undergo numerous physical and hormonal changes that can affect their overall health and may also have an impact on the health of their eyes. In reality, most women are misinformed or not aware of these eye changes, thus, we want to shed some light on the topic.
This article will discuss the most common potential eye problems during pregnancy, their causes, symptoms, and treatments. So that you can enjoy the beginning of your motherhood without worry, stress, or anxiety.
Table of Contents:
1. The Impact of Pregnancy on Your Eyesight
2. What Eye Problems May Occur in Pregnant Women?
2.1. Dry Eyes
2.2. Eye Infections
2.2.1. Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
2.3. Vision Changes
2.4. Increased Intraocular Pressure (IOP) and Glaucoma
2.5. Gestational Diabetes
The Impact of Pregnancy on Your Eyesight
Pregnancy is a time of immense change in a woman's body, including her vision. Hormonal fluctuations, fluid retention, and blood volume changes can all have an impact on a woman's eyesight. Pregnant women may experience changes in their vision, such as blurred vision, dry eyes, and increased sensitivity to light. This is usually not typically a cause for concern.
However, some individuals may develop pregnancy-related eye conditions, which can lead to more severe eye problems. That's why pregnant women have to undergo regular eye exams for monitoring. With proper care and attention, most vision changes during pregnancy are temporary and resolve after delivery.
More about the potential eye problems during pregnancy is below.
What Eye Problems May Occur in Pregnant Women?
Dry eyes are a common problem that may occur during pregnancy. The hormonal changes that happen during pregnancy can affect tear production, leading to dry eyes. The symptoms include redness, itching, burning, and sensitivity to light. If left untreated for a long time, dry eyes may result in damage to the cornea and impair vision.
To manage dry eyes during pregnancy, avoid environmental irritants, such as smoke, wind, and air conditioning. Drinking plenty of water and using artificial tears may also keep the eyes moist. In severe cases, consult an eye doctor for prescription eye drops.
Pregnant women may be more susceptible to eye infections due to fluctuations in their immune systems. The changes can make them more vulnerable to infections that they might have otherwise been able to fight off.
Some common eye infections that pregnant women may be at risk for include:
Conjunctivitis (pink eye)
Pink eye is an inflammation or infection of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids. A variety of factors can contribute to its development, such as bacteria, viruses, or allergies.
Styes are red, painful bumps that form on the eyelid due to an oil gland occlusion. This type of eye infection can also be caused by bacteria.
Keratitis is an infection of the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. Some of the possible causes include bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites.
Uveitis is a rare but serious eye infection of the intermediate layers of the eye, including the Iris, ciliary body, and choroid. Some bacteria, fungi, or viruses are responsible for this type of infection. Other causes include autoimmune diseases.
Treatment for these eye infections may include prescription eye drops or ointments to combat bacterial, viral, or fungal infections. In some cases, oral antibiotics or antiviral medications may also be necessary.
The best way to prevent eye infections is for pregnant women to take precautions, such as practicing good hygiene, avoiding touching their eyes, and avoiding contact with people who have infectious diseases. If a pregnant woman experiences symptoms such as redness, pain, or discharge from the eyes, she should contact her healthcare provider or an eye doctor immediately for evaluation and treatment.
Vision changes are another potential eye problem that may affect pregnant women. The hormonal changes often lead to fluid retention, including in the eyes. This could cause changes in vision. Some women may experience nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism during their pregnancy period. These changes may be temporary or may persist after delivery.
It is important to have regular eye exams during pregnancy to monitor any changes in vision. If necessary, eye doctors could prescribe corrective lenses. Please note that in some cases, acute vision changes may be a sign of preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy complication. Therefore, it is important to notify your healthcare provider and see your ophthalmologist if you experience any sudden changes in vision.
Increased Intraocular Pressure (IOP) and Glaucoma
Increased intraocular pressure can occur in pregnant women due to a combination of factors. These factors include changes in fluid balance, hormonal changes, and changes in the mechanical properties of the eye. High pressure can lead to a condition called glaucoma.
Glaucoma can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. It is often referred to as the "silent thief of sight" because it can develop slowly over time and may not cause any symptoms until significant damage already occurs.
Women with a family history of glaucoma or who have high IOP before becoming pregnant (ocular hypertension) are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are at risk need regular attention from an eye doctor.
It is important to note that developing glaucoma during pregnancy is not common. However, if a pregnant woman experiences symptoms such as eye pain, redness, or blurred vision, she should contact her eye doctor immediately. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are key.
Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. High blood sugar levels often cause damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, which could lead to a worsening of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that can cause vision loss and blindness.
For that reason, it is crucial to manage blood sugar levels during pregnancy. Regular eye exams are absolutely essential for women with gestational diabetes to monitor any changes in their eyes and vision.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is also a common problem during the pregnancy period. Although rarely, high blood pressure can potentially lead to hypertensive retinopathy. Hypertensive retinopathy could be quite serious and if you don't treat it on time, it could contribute to loss of vision.
Pregnant women should measure and manage blood pressure during pregnancy through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and medication if necessary. Regular eye exam checkups with ophthalmologists are also essential for pregnant women with chronic hypertension.
Preeclampsia is one of the serious pregnancy complications. It may affect the health of both the mother and the baby. Preeclampsia can cause damage to the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to vision changes or loss. The main symptoms include high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling in the legs, hands, and face.
Notify your eye doctor immediately if you experience symptoms or notice any signs of preeclampsia. Treatment may involve hospital admission, medication, bed rest, and monitoring of the mother and baby’s health.
Overall, pregnancy can affect the health of the eyes in various ways. Going for eye exams is the best way to detect potential eye problems during pregnancy, discuss everything with your doctor and monitor any changes in vision. Also, it is essential for pregnant women to manage blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and overall health to prevent or treat potential eye problems in time.
Eye Health Tips for Pregnancy, American Academy of Ophthalmology
Eye Health Tips for Pregnant Women, National Eye Institute
Vision Changes During Pregnancy, American Pregnancy Association
Gestational Diabetes, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Preeclampsia, Mayo Clinic
All medical facts and statements are checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.