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Why do I have dry eyes now that I am pregnant?

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Updated November 13, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Why do I have dry eyes now that I am pregnant?
"I've never had a problem with dry eyes. Now that I'm pregnant, my eyes bother me all the time. Both eyes feel very dry and scratchy, yet they water a lot." -- About.com User
Answer: Burning, scratchy eyes with excessive tearing is a tell-tale sign of dry eyes, or dry eye syndrome. Dry eye syndrome is a condition caused by a lack of moisture in the eyes, and it often shows up at times of hormonal change such as during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Dry eye syndrome related to pregnancy usually worsens at the end of the first trimester due to massive hormonal changes. Dryness may seem to come and go throughout the day, and can be constant for some women.

Dry eyes may continue throughout your pregnancy and can even persist for several months after you deliver. Mothers who choose to breastfeed their infants may continue to experience some dry eye symptoms due to some of the same type of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Symptoms may persist up a couple of months after lactation stops.

Lubricating or rewetting eye drops can lessen the discomfort caused by dry eyes, and are safe to use while you are pregnant or nursing.

Sources:

Murkoff, Heidi and Sharon Mazel. What to Expect When You're Expecting, 4th Edition. Workman Publishing, 2008. Pp 242-243.

American Optometric Association. Dry Eye. AOA.org, 2006-09.

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