Can Pregnancy Affect My Eyes? – Eye Changes During Pregnancy
Dr Preeti Patil Chhablani, Pediatric Ophthalmologist and Neuro-ophthalmologist Jasti V. Ramanamma Children’s Eye Care Center L V Prasad Eye Institute Hyderabad
Your body goes through tons of changes during pregnancy. Almost all the organs are affected by the hormonal changes that occur during this period, and eyes are no exception to the rule.
Most women do not find a noticeable change in their vision during pregnancy. However, pregnancy may affect the normal ‘physiological’ functioning of the eyes and may also modify some of the pre-existing disease processes.
Some of the common changes reported during pregnancy include:
- An increased tendency to retain water in the part of the eye called the ‘Cornea’ – this may result in a change in your refractive error, which means a small change in the ‘power’ of your glasses. This is also the reason ‘LASIK’ or laser treatment to get rid of glasses is not recommended during pregnancy. This may also make it uncomfortable to wear contact lenses.
- Pregnancy can also cause or worsen ‘Dry Eye Syndrome’. This may cause your eyes to feel irritated, gritty or tired. Use of lubricating eye drops (after consultation with your ophthalmologist) may relieve most of the symptoms.
- Increased pigmentation during pregnancy can result in appearance of black spots around the eyes and cheeks. This is referred to as ‘chloasma’ or the ‘mask of pregnancy’.
If you have preexisting eye problems, pregnancy can affect their natural disease progression.
- Pregnancy can worsen diabetes and can worsen or cause ‘diabetic retinopathy’ – a condition where the retina is affected due to increased blood sugar levels and can result in profound vision loss.
- During pregnancy, the intraocular pressure maybe reduced. This can actually result in better control in patients with ‘Glaucoma’ which is a condition associated with high intraocular pressure.
- Hormonal changes may also result in fluid accumulation beneath the layers of the retina, rarely causing a condition called ‘central serous chorioretinopathy’. This usually resolves after delivery.
- Increased blood pressure, specially a sudden increase in the blood pressure called ‘Eclampsia’ can cause serious eye problems, affecting the retina, the optic nerve and parts of the brain related to visual function.
- Certain inflammatory processes in the eye called ‘uveitis’ may also be affected by pregnancy. The effect is usually beneficial, with a reduction in the rate of flare ups.
It is advisable to consult your ophthalmologist if you experience any of the following symptoms during pregnancy:
- Sudden loss of vision
- Double vision
- Intensive headache
- Transient blurring of vision or ‘black outs’
- Pain, redness in the eyes
- Seeing flashes of lights or black spots