The Eye in Pregnancy

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OUR VISION IN PREGNANCY

Amongst the many changes taking place in a woman’s body due to hormonal changes which alter the fluid balance and blood flow in the body during pregnancy, the eyes also undergo some changes during this great adventure. They are usually transient but may have permanent effects if not taken care of correctly.

Dry Eyes
Dryness of the eyes can occur during pregnancy and women may feel their eyes are more uncomfortable when wearing contact lenses or in drier places like air-conditioned offices. Although for the most part quite innocuous, dryness can still be very annoying. The use of preservative-free artificial tears which are available in most pharmacies can give adequate reprieve from the symptoms of dry eye. Preservative-free drops can be used as often as required and provides the pregnant mother with the necessary relief as and when needed.
A good tip would be to note when dryness sets in and pre-empt this by instilling the drops before the symptoms get a foothold. For example, if one notices that dryness comes on after one-hour in an air-conditioned room, instil the drops every 45 minutes, so that you “stay ahead of the curve” and not have to deal with the discomfort of dry eyes.

Change in Focusing Degree
Because of fluid retention, the cornea (that clear circular window of the eye behind which lies the iris which gives your eye its colour) also can change in contour and thickness. Because of this, spectacle correction or degree changes and can persist till after breastfeeding is complete. Typically, the pregnant lady will find her degree shifting towards long-sightedness (or less short-sighted). If the change is significant, one can change the lenses of one’s spectacles. For contact lens users, avoid buying long-term supplies of contact lenses as the power can change, so an alternative would be to stick to daily disposables and get just one month’s supply at a time. LASIK or any form of refractive surgery is also a no-go at this time as the accuracy of the operation will be affected and one might find the degree of correction inadequate or excessive after pregnancy or breastfeeding. So, it is wise to defer refractive surgery, which is an elective procedure, to one to three months after pregnancy or breastfeeding. The wait is important as time is needed for the body reach a new equilibrium again.

Gestational Diabetes
Blood sugar levels tend to go up during pregnancy and the diabetic pregnant mother may find it hard to control her sugar levels. Some women can also develop gestational diabetes (diabetes secondary to pregnancy). Diabetes can damage the eye by causing bleeding, leakage of tiny blood vessels and even formation of abnormal blood vessels on the iris or retina. This could lead to serious damage to the eye and it is important for diabetic pregnant women to be properly monitored by an eye specialist during pregnancy while the sugar levels are being controlled by an obstetrician or physician.

Preeclampsia
Preeclampsia is a potential serious problem of pregnancy. In this condition, blood pressure can skyrocket and protein is found in the urine. Women experiencing preeclampsia may have transient loss of vision, photo- (or light) hypersensitivity, blurring of vision, auras and flashing lights (also known as photopsia). These visual disturbances may be the first signs of preeclampsia and ladies should seek immediate medical attention should this happen.

Most women will go through pregnancy without any serious vision problems but it is important not to take things for granted. Should one experience any significant change in vision, it is recommended to seek medical attention as most problems can be managed well if taken care of in a timely manner.

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