By Dr. Sophia Visanji
Being pregnant is a beautiful journey but can welcome many side effects to a woman’s body that are not always anticipated. Aside from the more obvious physical side effects of pregnancy such as morning sickness, sore breasts and lower back pain that is to be expected, I have many expecting mothers coming into my office surprised that they are noticing changes in their vision.
Common symptoms noted during pregnancy include:
1) DRY EYES
One of the most common issue that arises during pregnancy is dry eyes. This can happen for a number of reasons including hormone changes and decreased tear production. Symptoms include increased irritation, excess tearing, a gritty foreign body sensation, and can be especially uncomfortable for those women who are contact lens wearers.
There are a few recommendations to treat dry eyes, the most common being artificial tears to be used three to four times a day in order to be effective. A few Optometrist recommended brands include Systane, Refresh and Blink preservative free artificial tears. If these drops are not effective, talk to your Optometrist about the option of punctal plug insertion to treat dryness. If you are a contact lens wearer, you may want to switch to a daily replacement lens as they tend to retain moisture much more effectively. Adding a fish oil vitamin supplement to your daily regimen is also a great way to treat systemic dryness.
2) BLURRED VISION
Another common symptom that can occur during pregnancy is blurred vision. Increased water retention during pregnancy can change the curvature and thickness of the cornea which affects the way light passes through the eye and results in distorted or blurred vision. This is temporary and will eventually return to normal post-delivery. For this reason, corrective eye surgery (ie. LASIK) is not recommended during pregnancy. It is also not wise to invest in a large supply of contact lenses or an expensive pair of glasses until several months after birth when your vision is more stable.
3) OCULAR MIGRAINES
Visual “auras” such as flashing lights or spots that precede a headache is an indication of an ocular migraine. This finding is less common, but still reported in some women during pregnancy.
Some visual symptoms reported during pregnancy are much more uncommon and should be addressed by a medical professional (Optometrist or Primary Care Physician) immediately.
These symptoms include but are not limited to double vision, light sensitivity, blind spots, temporary vision loss, or flashing lights. These signs can sometimes indicate a more serious condition such as the following:
Preeclampsia is a condition that is characterized by high blood pressure and usually presents after week 20. The elevated blood pressure can pose as a risk for both mother and baby. Common visual symptoms that could be an early sign of preeclampsia include loss of vision, sensitivity to light, blurred vision and “auras” of flashing lights.
2) GESTATIONAL DIABETES
Gestational diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes that can manifest during pregnancy. Blurred vision can be an indication of changes to the integrity of the retinal blood vessels. It’s important for women with gestational diabetes to see their Optometrist once per trimester to monitor the blood vessels of the retina, and to maintain good blood sugar control in order to reduce the risk of diabetic retinopathy that can lead to permanent retinal damage and eventual vision loss.
3) CENTRAL SEROUS CHORIORETINOPATHY
Overall, it is important for expectant mothers to be aware of the ocular changes that can occur during pregnancy and consult their Optometrist if they are experiencing any changes to their vision.