4 min

Dry EyesDuring Pregnancy

Changes in hormones

Dry eyes are more common during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Doctors do not yet fully understand what causes this. They suspect that it's due to hormonal shifts, making it more difficult for your eyes to produce enough tears.

Dry eyes (also known as Dry Eye Syndrome or Dry Eye Disease) related to pregnancy tend to worsen at the end of the first trimester. The level of 'dryness' varies between women. Some women experience ebbs and flows through the day, while others experience a more constant level.

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“Due to hormonal changes, dry eyes during pregnancy usually worsen at the end of the first trimester. The severity of the 'dryness' can ebb and flow through the day.”

PROFESSOR DAWN SIM, CONSULTANT OPHTHALMIC SURGEON AT MOORFIELDS EYE HOSPITAL, CO-FOUNDER AT MTHK.

Dry Eye Symptoms during pregnancy

You may notice some of the following symptoms during pregnancy or breastfeeding:

  • Eyes that feel dry, itchy, or uncomfortable
  • Feeling the need to blink frequently
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Watery eyes
  • Dried mucus or stringy fluid in the corners of the eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Trouble putting in or taking out contact lenses
  • Changes with your vision
  • Your eye lids feel tired or droopy
  • Feeling like there's something in your eyes
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what causes the dryness?

Women are more likely than men to have dry eyes, mainly when hormonal changes occur, such as during pregnancy or menopause or when taking some forms of birth control.

Males have higher levels of androgens (sex hormones including testosterone). These hormones are thought to protect against dry eyes because they support tear production. Although women also have these sex hormones, their levels are lower, which might explain why they have higher rates of dry eyes than men. Women also have estradiol — which increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Estradiol is thought to counteract the protective effects of androgens.

People may find that skin issues such as rosacea and eczema cause dry eyes. These skin conditions may worsen during pregnancy and further compound the problem of hormone-related dry eyes.

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Remedies and treatments
  • Drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration. Using a humidifier to prevent the air from becoming too dry.
  • Take a fatty acid supplement, such as fish oil or an omega-3 supplement.
  • Wearing sunglasses outside to minimise sun damage to the eyes trying warm compresses or eyelid massage.
  • Use preservative-free 'artificial' tears to strengthen your tear film and top-up your tears.
  • Avoid fans or heaters near or directly on your face, which can worsen your dry eyes.
  • Avoid using (potential) irritants around your eyes - like lotions and creams. If you use several products - eliminate them one at a time to see which one triggers your dry eye symptoms.
  • Steroids can help treat some types of eye inflammation. An ophthalmologist may recommend steroid creams (on the eyelids or a set of steroid eye drops. They may also fit removable tear plugs into your tear ducts - which help the tears stay in your eyes for longer.
  • “For most people - dry eyes during pregnancy tend to improve after delivery or after they've stopped breastfeeding”

    ALEX IONIDES, CONSULTANT OPHTHALMIC SURGEON AT MOORFIELDS EYE HOSPITAL, CO-FOUNDER AT MTHK.

    In Summary

    For most people, dry eyes during pregnancy tend to improve after delivery or after they've stopped breastfeeding. The hormone fluctuations during pregnancy can trigger or worsen dry eyes. Always check with your doctor before you try any remedies.

    For most people, dry eyes are a minor annoyance rather than a serious medical condition. Although rarely severe, the pain and irritation of dry eyes are unpleasant and can make everyday tasks more difficult.

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