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Your Eyes During Pregnancy: What Expectant Moms Should Know

A growing belly isn’t the only physical change you’ll undergo during your pregnancy. Your eyes will change as well. Throughout your pregnancy, your eyes may experience dryness, vision problems, and more. Here’s a look at the most common vision disturbances you might face, their symptoms, and what you can do about them.

Corneal Edema

What It Is: Corneal sensitivity is usually present with pregnant women, with the most changes occurring in the third trimester (and reversible postpartum). A cause may be related to the slight increase in corneal thickness that may develop from corneal edema, making the cornea more sensitive and irritated easily.

Vision Problems: Reduced tolerance of contact lenses and/or increased dryness.

Advice: Decrease or discontinue contact lens wear if symptoms persist. Keep a pair of comfortable glasses handy. This is not the time to be fitted for contact lenses!

Changes in the Retina

What It Is: Vision problems and changes to your retina may be due to pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes.

Vision Problems: Blurred vision.

Advice: Be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels carefully if you are diabetic and let your healthcare provider know if you are having blurred vision.

Central Serous Choroidopathy

What It Is: CSC is a leakage of fluid or accumulation of fluid under the retina. (The fluid leaks from the choroid, or the blood vessel layer under the retina.)

Vision Problems: Distorted vision.

Advice: See your eye-care professional.

Pituitary Adenoma

What It Is: A pituitary adenoma is a benign tumor. The pituitary gland, responsible for secretion of hormones, can form a tumor and consequently, an over secretion of hormones. This may cause problems such as acromegaly (growth hormone hypersecretion) or Cushing’s disease (corticosteroid hormone hypersecretion).

Vision Problems: Tunnel vision.

Advice: This condition is rare, but be sure to contact your eye care professional if you experience episodes of tunnel vision during your pregnancy.

Glaucoma (changes in the pre-existing condition)

What It Is: Glaucoma is a disorder of the eye characterized by an increase of pressure within the eyeball. In general, eye pressure tends to decrease during pregnancy, possibly due to the body’s hormonal changes. This may be beneficial to some women as pre-existing symptoms of glaucoma tend to improve.

Vision Problems: High pressure in the eye.

Advice: Eye pressure decreases. In some instances, however, medication is still required. As with all medications, glaucoma treatments should be used with extreme caution in pregnant women. If you have glaucoma, be sure to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as you become pregnant. And conversely, be sure your OB-GYN is aware that you have this condition.

Vision Problems Signaling More Serious Conditions

There are certain problems during pregnancy which may be a sign of a more serious condition. Carefully monitor your vision throughout each of your trimesters and be on the lookout for symptoms that may signal the following conditions.

Gestational Diabetes

What It Is: This type of diabetes occurs during pregnancy, usually during the second half. A woman may have glucose (sugar) in her blood at a higher than normal level. In about 95 percent of cases, the blood sugar returns to normal after the pregnancy is over; however, women who develop gestational diabetes are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Vision Problems: Blurred vision.

Advice: Your OB-GYN will conduct a gestational diabetes test usually between your 24th and 28th week of pregnancy. If you are diagnosed, be sure to follow your obstetrician’s advice.

Pregnancy-Induced Hypertension (PIH)

What It Is: Hypertension induced by pregnancy is one of the most common complications of pregnancy, occurring in about five percent of all pregnancies. PIH occurs more commonly in older and obese women and in those who have hypertension before pregnancy.

Vision Problems: Blurred vision and/or spots in front of eyes.

Advice: PIH generally resolves itself after delivery, but early treatment is vital to minimizing complications with the pregnancy.

Preeclampsia

What It Is: Closely related to PIH and characterized by a sharp rise in blood pressure usually during the third trimester of pregnancy, preeclampsia may also be accompanied by edema (swelling) and kidney problems. It is most often confirmed through blood pressure testing by your OB-GYN and evidenced by protein in the urine. Although preeclampsia is relatively common, occurring in about five percent of all pregnancies (most frequently in first pregnancies), it can be a sign of a much more serious problem. Occasionally, untreated preeclampsia can progress to eclampsia, a life-threatening situation for both mother and baby.

Vision Problems: Hemorrhages in the eye and/or detached retina.

Advice: Your OB-GYN will closely monitor you throughout your pregnancy, testing your blood pressure and urine at each office visit. If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, be sure to consult with an ophthalmologist regarding any effects on your vision.

Source: The Better Vision Institute.

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