Pregnancy and Vision Changes: What You Need to Know

SAN DIEGO, CALIF (December 01, 2016) - Every expectant mother knows that having a baby involves all sorts of physical changes, everything from morning sickness to thicker hair. But surprisingly enough, pregnancy can affect a mother-to-be’s vision as well.

“Changes in hormones, metabolism, fluid retention, and blood circulation can all impact a woman’s eyes and eyesight during pregnancy,” says ophthalmologist Sandy T. Feldman MD, Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center in San Diego.

Water retention, for instance, may cause the thickness and curvature of the cornea of the eye to increase slightly, which can cause blurred vision. This is why new contacts and laser eye surgery aren’t recommended during pregnancy. In most cases, these changes are temporary and will reverse themselves within several months of delivery.

“Many pregnant women also experience eyes that are drier or more irritated during pregnancy and while breastfeeding,” said Dr. Feldman. “This can be a real problem for my patients who wear contacts, who find their lenses less comfortable than usual.”

Dr. Feldman suggests these tips for dry eye relief:

  • Use artificial tears, preferably a brand recommended by an eye doctor, as some solutions contain ingredients that may not be completely safe during pregnancy.
  • Contact lens wearers should try wearing them for shorter stretches of time. If that doesn't work, switch to glasses until after the baby is born.
  • Make regular breaks from the computer, as prolonged screen time can exacerbate dryness and irritation.

Pregnancy can also bring about changes in existing eye conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, caused by high blood sugar levels that damage the small blood vessels that supply the retina - especially during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes, a temporary form of diabetes that sometimes affects moms-to-be, can also cause blurred vision.

“Women with any form of diabetes need to closely monitor their blood sugar levels and see their eye doctor more frequently during pregnancy and during the postpartum period,” advises Dr. Feldman.

On the other hand, glaucoma can sometimes improve during pregnancy, requiring adjustments to medication.

Are there any eye symptoms during pregnancy that should be cause for concern? According to Dr. Feldman, certain symptoms can indeed signal a number of potentially serious health problems. For example, vision disturbances or puffiness around the eyes can be a sign of high blood pressure or preeclampsia. Pregnant women should let their doctor or midwife know immediately if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Double vision
  • Extremely blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Temporary loss of vision
  • Seeing spots, auras or flashing lights
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Extreme eye pain or redness

“An expectant mother experiencing any of these symptoms should contact their doctor ASAP or go to the emergency room,” says Dr. Feldman. “Preeclampsia can progress rapidly and cause bleeding and other serious health problems.”

About Sandy T. Feldman

Sandy T. Feldman MD is the Medical Director of Clearview Eye & Laser Medical Center in San Diego and has successfully performed more than 20,000 refractive procedures. Her many honors and awards include “Best Laser Eye Center” in the 2016 San Diego’s Best Union-Tribune Readers’ Poll, “Top Doc San Diego” and the Goldline Award, an honor granted to only 10 laser eye care providers in the U.S. each year. She has been profiled in Forbes, Newsweek and other respected publications, and makes regular appearances as an expert resource for media outlets such as The Doctors, e-Heath Radio and various San Diego TV network affiliates. Dr. Feldman is a fellow of the American and European College of Ophthalmic Surgeons and a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. For more information, please visit clearvieweyes.com.