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  • Writer's pictureAtanas Bogoev M.D. and Maria Cholakova

Preeclampsia Vision Changes

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

Preeclampsia is a serious medical problem causing high blood pressure and significant organ damage. The condition occurs during pregnancy and the postpartum period. It poses significant risks to both pregnant women and their unborn babies. One of the critical manifestations is preeclampsia vision changes. They can persist even after childbirth.

The aim of this article is to explore the meaning of preeclampsia, its impact on blood pressure, and the specific changes in vision. Furthermore, we will examine the signs and symptoms of worsening preeclampsia, emphasizing the importance of early recognition and appropriate management.

Preeclampsia Meaning & Symptoms

Preeclampsia is a hypertensive disorder affecting pregnant women, typically occurring after the 20th week of gestation.

In modern days, preeclampsia remains a leading cause of maternal and perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide.

The most common symptoms include high blood pressure (hypertension) normally occurring in conjunction with proteinuria (presence of protein in the urine), signs of organ dysfunction, and preeclampsia vision changes.

The extended list of symptoms to look out for includes:

  • High blood pressure

  • Vision changes and disturbances

  • Proteinuria (presence of protein in the urine)

  • Excessive face & body swelling (edema)

  • Persistent and severe headaches

  • Pain or tenderness in the upper right side of the abdomen, just below the ribs

  • Pain or tenderness in the shoulder

  • Reduction in urine output (kidney dysfunction)

  • Severe nausea and vomiting in the second half of pregnancy

  • Shortness of breath

Please note you may experience some of these symptoms while pregnant, even if you don't have preeclampsia.

We urge you to NOT self-diagnose.

Consult your healthcare provider or an ophthalmologist if you have any concerns!

preeclampsia symptoms infographic by ophthalmology24

While the exact mechanisms and etiology of underlying preeclampsia remain elusive, it is likely to involve abnormal placental development, immune maladaptation, and vascular endothelial dysfunction.

Preeclampsia Blood Pressure

Hypertension is a defining feature of preeclampsia and serves as a main diagnostic indicator. High blood pressure causes significant complications for both the mother and the developing fetus. When left untreated, the disease can progress rapidly, putting the health of the mother and baby at risk.

Close monitoring of blood pressure is essential throughout pregnancy and the postpartum period to detect preeclampsia promptly.

Blood pressure levels above 140/90 mmHg on two separate occasions, at least four hours apart, indicate hypertension in pregnancy.

Often referred to as a "silent killer," preeclampsia can go unnoticed as individuals may not feel the gradual increase in their blood pressure.

Preeclampsia Vision Changes

Another one of the prominent symptoms of preeclampsia is visual disturbances. They often occur during pregnancy and may persist postpartum.

The rise in blood pressure occurring with the condition affects organ systems, including the eyes. Which contributes to a range of visual difficulties. The fluctuations in vision can be alarming and significantly impact a woman's daily life, adding to the already substantial burden of this condition.

Preeclampsia vision changes commonly include blurry vision, light sensitivity (photophobia), and visual disturbances like seeing flashing lights or floaters.

Preeclampsia vision changes may indicate potential severe complications.

Eye problems are way easier to detect than high blood pressure. So they are quite often the reason a pregnant woman or new mom gets the diagnosis and receives timely medical care.

Preeclampsia Vision Changes infographic with symptoms and what to do by ophthalmology24

Blurry vision

The vascular changes and low blood flow to the eyes affect visual function. Blurry vision may occur as a result of changes in the cornea, lens, or retina, leading to a decrease in visual acuity and sharpness. Fluid retention and eye swelling may contribute to blurriness.


Photophobia, as a preeclampsia symptom, makes individuals highly sensitive to light. Thus causing discomfort and a strong aversion to bright light sources. It can further lead to eye strain, headaches, and visual disturbances, adding to the burden of preeclampsia vision changes.

Preeclampsia Flashes

Flashes of light are another ocular discomfort we commonly associate with preeclampsia vision changes. These flashes, often described as brief, bright flickers or streaks of light, can appear suddenly and sporadically in a woman's visual field. Their occurrence is a result of abnormal retinal stimulation, due to vascular alterations.

Preeclampsia Floaters

Preeclampsia floaters are dark spots or specks that appear to "float" in a person's visual field. The causes are tiny protein or cell aggregations in the vitreous humor (the gel-like substance that fills the eye). They may appear as small dots or cobweb-like shapes, often moving with eye movements. Preeclampsia floaters are indicative of abnormal blood flow in the retinal blood vessels.

Causes of Preeclampsia Vision Changes

A full understanding of preeclampsia vision changes remains unclear. Nevertheless, several factors possibly contribute to these ocular symptoms:

  • Poor Blood Flow

  • Retinal Changes

  • Optic Nerve Edema

  • Central Nervous System Involvement

As mentioned, the condition involves systemic vascular dysfunction, leading to inadequate blood flow to the retina and optic nerve, directly affecting vision. Changes in the retinal blood vessel (vasoconstriction and vasospasms) further impact a person's ocular function.

The high pressure within the skull from preeclampsia may result in swelling which affects visual acuity and causes vision disturbances. Last but not least, the disease impacts the central nervous system, so neurological symptoms potentially influence overall visual processing and perception.

Preeclampsia Postpartum

While the condition typically develops during pregnancy, it can persist or even emerge or worsen after childbirth.

Postpartum preeclampsia refers to the development of symptoms and preeclampsia vision changes within the first six weeks after delivery. This persistence underscores the necessity of continuous monitoring.

New mothers with a history of preeclampsia should be vigilant about any visual disturbances and report them to their healthcare providers promptly. An eye doctor should closely monitor a mother's eye health postpartum to identify any worsening of symptoms and initiate timely interventions.

Early recognition and appropriate management are essential to improve overall maternal health.

postpartum preeclampsia

What are the Symptoms of Worsening Preeclampsia?

One of the common concerns and worries of pregnant women and new mothers is how to recognize if their condition is getting worse. Some signs and symptoms to watch for include:

  • Severe headaches, not responding to pain medications

  • Preeclampsia vision changes like persistent blurry vision or a sudden increase in floaters

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

  • Significant swelling of the hands, face, or legs

  • Abdominal pain or tenderness, particularly in the upper right quadrant

  • Low urine output or dark-colored urine

  • Excessive nausea or vomiting

  • Persistent high blood pressure readings

Don't overlook the signs and symptoms of worsening preeclampsia. They can have severe consequences for both the new mother and the baby.

Women with preeclampsia are at increased risk of developing eclampsia, a life-threatening condition characterized by seizures. Thus, healthcare providers must remain attentive to warning signs and symptoms indicating a deterioration in the mother's health.

Can You Get Preeclampsia More Than Once?

Yes. There is the possibility to experience preeclampsia more than once in different pregnancies.

While the majority of women with preeclampsia in a previous pregnancy may not develop it again in subsequent pregnancies, there is still a slight risk of recurrence.

The likelihood of experiencing preeclampsia again depends on various factors. Women who have short intervals between pregnancies are at a higher risk.

Preexisting health conditions like chronic hypertension, kidney disease, diabetes, or autoimmune disorders, may also increase the likelihood of developing preeclampsia in subsequent pregnancies. Advanced maternal age is a risk factor as well.

Monitoring & Prevention Tips

Regular Prenatal Care & Fetal Monitoring

Consistent and proper prenatal care is of utmost importance. In that regard, please attempt NOT to miss any routine doctor's appointments during pregnancy.

Pregnant women should undergo crucial tests such as weighing in, checking blood pressure, screening for preeclampsia vision changes, and examining urine for protein levels regularly. Each test plays a significant role in safeguarding both maternal and fetal health.

pregnant woman at the doctor

Blood Pressure Monitoring

Monitoring blood pressure at home is a must. Especially for pregnant women at risk of preeclampsia or those with a history of high blood pressure. We advise you to keep a log of your readings. Take them at the same time each day and in the sitting position, with the cuff on your left arm at heart level.

Sharing this log with your healthcare provider during each visit is crucial for tracking any changes. If you notice a significant rise in blood pressure between visits, immediately inform your doctor.

Be cautious, as some blood pressure monitors may not be as reliable as those available in clinics or hospitals. Calibrate your monitor with the one your prenatal doctor uses for the best accuracy.

Remember, blood pressure readings at home should not replace prenatal visits. Even if you have a "normal" reading at home, watch for other symptoms or preeclampsia vision changes and promptly report any concerns to your health provider.

Vision Monitoring

Pay close attention to the symptoms, so you can react quickly. If you ever feel like everything is blurry, you see auras, flashes, floaters in your field of vision or light suddenly bothers your eyes way too much, these are signs of preeclampsia vision changes. These types of vision problems in pregnant women and new mothers classify as ophthalmology emergency. Don't ignore them and seek prompt medical assistance!

Healthy Diet and Adequate Hydration

Maintaining proper hydration and following a nutritious diet with essential vitamins and minerals is fundamental for a healthy pregnancy. Drinking plenty of water and limiting processed foods, refined sugars, and caffeine further contributes to overall well-being and eye health. Reducing sodium intake helps manage blood pressure levels and potentially decreases the risk of preeclampsia.

Furthermore, before taking any nutritional supplement, including herbal ones, consult with your healthcare professional to ensure they are safe for pregnant women.

Avoid Smoking, Alcohol, and Non-Prescription Medications

Eliminating alcohol and any non-prescription medications is also imperative for a safe and healthy pregnancy. It is vital to inform your prenatal care provider about any medications and assess their suitability for use during pregnancy. Smoking also puts the mother at preeclampsia risk and may harm fetal development.

Learn more about your eye health in the Ophthalmology24 blog.


Checked by Atanas Bogoev, MD.

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