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Pregnancy can throw many things out of whack — including your vision. Here’s how to keep your eyes healthy.
Things you’re prepared for when you become pregnant:
- Weight gain
- Morning sickness
- More frequent trips to the bathroom
- Blurry vision
Wait, blurry vision? Is that right?
Chances are your ob-gyn doctor didn’t pull out an eye chart when they confirmed your pregnancy. But just as pregnancy ushers in a host of changes to your body, it can also bring about some strange — but completely normal — changes to your vision and eye health.
Here, we take a closer look at the most common vision changes pregnant people face. Plus, learn how to deal with them if they occur, and how long to expect a different “view.”
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Vision Change #1: Blurry Vision — or a Super Sharp View
One common visual symptom pregnant people notice is that their vision becomes fuzzy ... or the exact opposite.
The reason isn’t clear, but fluctuating hormones and water retention are the likely culprits, according to Robert Simon, O.D. He’s a board-certified optometrist who practices at America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses in Hermitage, Tennessee.
The dips and spikes in hormones during pregnancy lead you to retain fluid in your eye lens, Dr. Simon explains. This fluid retention can cause the lens to change shape, which then causes changes in visual acuity.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know ahead of time if and how pregnancy will affect your vision. It may stay the same, worsen, or even improve, says Dr. Simon. What’s more, you may see changes with one pregnancy and not another.
“It can be different with every child,” says Dr. Simon.
Blurry vision is a sign to call your optometrist for an exam, especially if the changes make it difficult to complete everyday tasks (such as driving or work). Your optometrist can prescribe glasses to give you clear sight for the duration of your pregnancy.
Keep in mind that your vision may change again after you’ve had your baby, adds Dr. Simon. For many people, any pregnancy-related changes in acuity clear up about six weeks after giving birth. But for some, the changes become permanent.
You’ll be busy adjusting to your new normal, of course, but Dr. Simon suggests keeping tabs on your eyesight in those first few weeks after delivery. If you were prescribed eyeglasses, for example, is the view still sharp and comfortable?
Let your optometrist know if you experience noticeable changes in clarity. And set a reminder to schedule a follow-up eye exam to determine whether your prescription needs an update. Dr. Simon recommends waiting a minimum of six weeks postpartum.
Vision Change #2: Puffy Eyelids
Fluid retention can not only cause changes in acuity, but it can also cause puffy eyelids. “The skin on the eyelids is loose already, so there’s potential space in there for fluids,” Dr. Simon says.
Luckily, the puffiness often goes away on its own within a day or two. Still, you can take steps to reduce the swelling.
- Remove any contact lenses.
- Rinse your eyes if the swelling is accompanied by a discharge.
- Lie down and place a cold compress on your eyes. A washcloth soaked in cold water will work just fine.
- Repeat these steps periodically throughout the day.
If your eyes are still swollen the next day, Dr. Simon advises switching to a warm compress (such as a washcloth soaked in warm water and thoroughly wrung out). The heat opens the blood vessels to draw excess fluid out of your eyes, he explains.
If that doesn’t work or if you’re frequently bothered by puffy eyelids, call your optometrist. They can rule out other possible reasons for the puffiness and suggest next-level solutions.
Vision Change #3: Dry Eye
Dry eye — a condition that results when your tears don’t work the way they should — is common among pregnant people, says Dr. Simon. Symptoms include:
- Burning or stinging feelings in your eye
- A scratchy feeling, as if there’s something in your eye
- Red eyes
- Blurry vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Excessively watery eyes
Dry eye has many causes, including hormonal changes. Research suggests that certain pregnancy hormones limit the amount of tears your body is able to produce.
The good news: Your tear production should return to normal after you’ve given birth, says Dr. Simon.
In the meantime, artificial tears, which are a type of eyedrop that mimics your natural tears, may offer a safe and effective means of keeping your eyes comfortable during pregnancy.
Certain lifestyle factors may also increase your risk of dry eye. For example, wearing contact lenses for long stints, staring at a computer screen for hours, and sitting in windy or air-conditioned environments often dry out the eyes even more. To keep your eyes moist and comfortable, aim to limit your screen time, give your eyes regular breaks from contact lenses, and avoid smoke, wind, and air conditioning.
If these solutions don’t offer relief, visit your optometrist for help.
Vision Change #4: Increased Risk for Eye Infections
Your body creates more protein during pregnancy to support the growing fetus. This can cause some women to produce more protein in their eyes too. In turn, that may increase the risk of eye infections for those who wear contact lenses.
Here’s what’s happening, according to Dr. Simon: All that extra protein adheres to the front surface of the contact lens. If you’re not diligent about cleaning your lenses or handling them with clean hands, the protein can build up and cause an infection in your eye. (Find smart tips for contact lens care here.)
One of the most common eye infections from contact lenses is keratitis. This happens when the cornea (your eye’s clear, protective outer layer) becomes inflamed and potentially infected. In severe cases, keratitis can scar the cornea and affect your vision.
Signs and symptoms of contact lens-related eye infections include:
- Blurry vision
- Unusual redness of the eye
- Pain in the eye
- Discharge from the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- The sensation that something is in your eye
If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your optometrist as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many treatment options that are safe for both you and your baby. Your optometrist may need to consult with your ob-gyn to determine which treatment offers the most benefit and the least risk.
Your best move is to take good care of your contact lenses to avoid infections in the first place. This means washing your hands before cleaning your contacts, never sleeping in your contacts, and getting new lenses when recommended.