If you're pregnant or trying to become pregnant, you already know about a variety of physical changes to expect with pregnancy. You probably plan on morning sickness, appetite loss, and frequent nausea. You're likely also aware of issues like swelling in your feet and ankles, insomnia, and other symptoms of pregnancy commonly discussed or portrayed in media.
However, many women are unaware of the vision changes pregnancy can cause. Most pregnancy-related eye issues are relatively minor and tend to clear up after pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. But others, though, can have long-lasting consequences and should be dealt with as soon as they arise during the pregnancy.
If you've noticed vision changes during your pregnancy, keep reading. Below, you'll learn everything you need to know about why pregnancy affects your vision, what warning signs to look out for, and what steps to take next.
1. How Can Pregnancy Impact Your Vision?
Pregnancy has a profound effect on every aspect of your body, from your skin to your blood volume and sleeping habits, and your eyes aren't exempt. Because of physical and hormonal changes, many women experience eye problems like dry and itchy eyes or slight nearsightedness during pregnancy.
Why do these changes occur? Pregnant women tend to retain water (which explains why their hands and feet can swell), and that excess water can distort your cornea's typical shape. The pressure on your cornea changes the way light refracts and may might make it harder for you to see far-away objects.
In contrast, dry eyes aren't affected by how much water you have in your body. Instead, hormonal changes can cause your tear glands to produce less fluid, rendering your eyes dry, tired, and itchy.
These two changes are perfectly normal and aren't anything to be concerned about. However, you don't have to linger in discomfort. Your doctor or optometrist can recommend artificial tears if you experience dry eyes. Or if you're having difficulty seeing, you might need a pair of reading glasses.
Bear in mind that if you already have glasses, you shouldn't change your prescription during pregnancy - as mentioned above, your vision will likely go back to normal after you deliver.
2. When Should You Worry?
While the above issues are quite common, a few more drastic symptoms can signal a bigger issue both with your vision and the rest of your body. For instance, preeclampsia - or dangerously high blood pressure - can first present with eye problems. If you experience sudden vision loss, frequent blurry eyesight, or sudden flashes or dark spots, you should get in touch with your OBGYN immediately.
Gestational diabetes can also cause long-term harm by putting pressure on your retinas, leading to vision loss over time. While diabetes usually takes years to permanently harm your vision, you should notify your eye doctor and OBGYN about any vision changes after you're diagnosed with gestational diabetes. You may have had an underlying retinal problem that pregnancy is exacerbating and accelerating.
3. How Should You Protect Your Vision During Pregnancy?
As with most other pregnancy symptoms, you can soften the impact of pregnancy-related vision problems by eating a healthy diet. The right vitamins, minerals, and nutrients give your eyes the fuel they need to stay strong.
You should also visit your optometrist during your pregnancy at least once, though you might need to visit more if you're diagnosed with preeclampsia. While your eye doctor probably won't recommend changing your prescription while you're pregnant, they can recommend eye drops, better contact solution, and lifestyle changes that can mitigate some of your vision problems.
Do you live in North Carolina, and are you concerned about vision changes during pregnancy? Get in touch with Carolina Cataract & Laser Center, P.A. We offer a full spectrum of vision services beyond cataracts. You can also browse our blog to learn more about eye care, eye health, and general eye services.