Eye changes

Some of the changes your body undergoes during pregnancy can affect your eyes and your vision. During pregnancy, the outer layer (cornea) of the eyes becomes a little thicker, and the pressure of fluid within your eyeballs (intraocular pressure) decreases by about 10 percent. These changes occasionally result in slightly blurred vision (see also Blurred vision).

In addition to blurred vision, you may experience other changes related to your eyes:

• Vision (refractive) changes. Changes in hormone levels appear to temporarily alter the strength you need in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.

• Dry eyes. Some pregnant women develop dry eyes, which may involve a stinging, burning or scratchy sensation, increased eye irritation or fatigue, and difficulty wearing contact lenses.

• Puffy eyelids. Because of water retention during pregnancy, you may have puffiness around the eyes. Puffy eyelids can interfere with peripheral vision.

Monitor your vision closely during pregnancy. Diabetes complications such as diabetic retinopathy — which damages the retina of your eyes — can worsen during pregnancy. It's essential to have your eyes examined during pregnancy if you have diabetes. Women with high blood pressure (hypertension) also are susceptible to vision problems. Hypertension during pregnancy requires close observation. Occasionally, newly blurred vision may be a sign of a serious high blood pressure problem in late pregnancy.

■ Prevention and self-care for eye changes

If you're having trouble with blurred vision or a change in your vision early in pregnancy, there's usually no great cause for worry or a need to change your eyeglass or contact lens prescription. Your vision will return to its normal state after you give birth.

To lessen the discomfort of dry eyes, use lubricating eyedrops, also referred to as artificial tears. Lubricating eyedrops are safe to use during pregnancy. Dry eyes is usually a temporary condition that goes away after delivery.

If your contacts are uncomfortable because of dry, irritated eyes, try cleaning the lenses with an enzymatic cleaner more often. If they remain uncomfortable, don't worry. Your eyes will likely return to normal within a few weeks of delivery.

■ When to seek medical help for eye changes

Contact your health care provider immediately if you have a new onset of blurred vision or blind spots at any time. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, work with your health care provider to closely monitor your vision. Diabetic retinopathy requires treatment before, during and after pregnancy. To minimize vision complications from retinopathy, see an ophthalmologist regularly. If you're concerned about any changes in your vision, you may want to talk to an eye doctor.

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