The most obvious changes to a woman’s body during pregnancy happen south of the chin. But did you know that hormonal and physical changes during pregnancy can affect eye health and vision? These changes are generally temporary but in some cases persist until a woman stops breastfeeding.
The most common changes are to corneal thickness and curvature, which could affect how well glasses and contact lenses correct vision. These changes in refraction are usually temporary but may require a new prescription.
Small changes in vision during pregnancy are not out of the ordinary. Big changes are concerning because they may be a sign of abnormal glucose levels or hypertension. An expectant mother’s body naturally becomes more resistant to insulin so that more glucose is available to nourish her baby. For most women this isn’t a problem, but others develop gestational diabetes. This temporary form of diabetes should be monitored closely to keep blood sugar levels moderated. High levels can damage the small blood vessels that supply the retina of the eye; however, most vision changes caused by gestational diabetes are temporary.
Vision changes can be a sign of preeclampsia, a potentially serious problem that occurs in 5% to 8% of pregnancies.
Vision changes during pregnancy can also be a red flag for preeclampsia, a serious complication characterized by high blood pressure and elevated amounts of protein in the urine. Preeclampsia causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow to organs, including the eyes. Symptoms vary among women. Swelling of the hands, feet, ankles, and face as well as puffiness around the eyes are the most common. When caught early, preeclampsia is easier to manage.
In rare cases, forceful vomiting during pregnancy can cause blood vessels in the eye to burst. Subconjunctival hemorrhages usually clear up without treatment, but women who experience pain or vision changes should see their doctor.
Interestingly, pregnancy affects dental health, as well.
By contributing writer Nicole Weddington