Along with a host of other bodily changes, pregnancy can affect your eyes and quality of vision. Changes in hormones during pregnancy are responsible for most of these changes. While these changes are usually temporary, they can signal more serious conditions. If you are experiencing vision or eye-related changes that you are concerned about, consult your obstetrician and ophthalmologist or optometrist. Below are the top five eye and vision changes that may occur during pregnancy.
1. Pregnancy and Contact Lens Wear
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Many pregnant women find wearing contact lenses intolerable, even if they've worn them for years. During pregnancy, subtle changes occur to the shape of the cornea. Those contact lenses that once felt very comfortable may suddenly fit differently due to changes in corneal curvature. Also, the cornea can swell causing edema. Corneal edema may cause the cornea to become irritated more easily.
If you are an avid contact lens wearer, you may have to switch to glasses during your pregnancy. Most doctors advise against being fitted for new contact lenses while you are pregnant. If you normally wear contact lenses on a daily basis, make sure you have a good pair of back-up glasses to wear during your pregnancy.
2. Pregnancy and Blurred Vision
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Swelling that sometimes occurs during pregnancy may cause mild changes to your glasses or contact lens prescription. You may feel more nearsighted one day and distance objects may be blurred. For most women, these vision changes are not enough to warrant a prescription change or new glasses during pregnancy, as this is usually a temporary change.
3. Pregnancy and Dry Eyes
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Due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, your eyes may feel very dry. The quality or quantity of your tears may change substantially while you are pregnant. Dry eyes can sometimes cause you to feel like a piece of sand is in your eye. Your eyes may burn, itch or even suddenly become excessively watery.
Your doctor may recommend the use of artificial tears given several times per day to alleviate discomfort due to dry eyes.
4. Pregnancy and Diabetic Retinopathy
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If you have diabetes, you are susceptible to the development or worsening of diabetic retinopathy during your pregnancy. Pregnant women may develop bleeding or fluid leakage in the retina which can cause blurred vision and in some cases, significant vision loss and even blindness.
Women who have any type of diabetes should have at least one and possibly more eye examinations during pregnancy, especially if blood sugar levels are not stable. Obstetricians are aware of this and usually work closely with your eye care professionals.
5. Pregnancy and Floaters
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Pregnant women who complain of spots in their vision are taken very seriously. These dark spots could be scotomata. Unlike floaters, which move across the visual field and can be normal (whether pregnant or not), scotomata are stable and usually involve a larger part of the field of vision. Scotomata can indicate preeclampsia or eclampsia, complications during some pregnancies that can cause blood pressure to become dangerously high. Although this can result in unusual visual symptoms, in most cases eye damage is limited and vision returns to normal upon resolution of the high blood pressure.
Murkoff, Heidi and Sharon Mazel. What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th Edition. Workman Publishing, 2008. Pp 242-243.