Dry Eyes During Pregnancy
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.
“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.”
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
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.
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.
Avoid fans or heaters near or directly on your face, which can worsen your dry eyes.
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”
Pregnancy can lead to temporary changes in vision due to hormonal fluctuations, fluid retention, and increased blood circulation. These factors may cause changes in the shape and thickness of the cornea, resulting in blurry or distorted vision. They can also affect the eye's focusing ability.
Yes, mild vision changes are relatively common during pregnancy and are usually temporary. However, any significant or sudden changes in vision should be discussed with an eye specialist, as they could signal more serious underlying conditions like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes.
Pregnancy impacts eye health in several ways:
- Hormonal fluctuations can cause changes in tear production, leading to dry or irritated eyes.
- Fluid retention can alter the cornea's shape and thickness, causing temporary vision changes.
- Increased blood circulation can cause pressure changes within the eye, leading to temporary or permanent vision changes.
For most women, vision changes experienced during pregnancy are temporary and will return to normal after giving birth. However, it's essential to consult with an eye specialist if vision issues persist or worsen after delive
To maintain good eye health during pregnancy, consider the following tips:
- Stay well-hydrated to help prevent dry eyes
- Eat a balanced diet rich in eye-healthy nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, Lutein, and Vitamin A
- Rest your eyes regularly if you experience eye strain or fatigue
- Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays with sunglasses
- Consult with an eye specialist if you have concerns about your vision
It is generally safe to wear contact lenses during pregnancy. However, some women may experience increased discomfort or dryness due to changes in tear production. Using preservative eye drops and sprays will help. If you have concerns about wearing contact lenses while pregnant, consult your eye specialist for advice on alternative options or ways to alleviate discomfort.
Routine eye exams during pregnancy are generally safe and recommended, especially if you have a history of vision problems or have concerns about your eye health. However, elective procedures such as laser eye surgery (LASIK) should be postponed until after pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding can cause temporary vision changes due to hormonal fluctuations and other physiological changes. However, these changes typically resolve once breastfeeding is discontinued.
Yes, certain nutrients and vitamins support eye health during pregnancy and breastfeeding, such as:
- Lutein & Zeaxanthin: Carotenoids that protect the eyes from oxidative stress and blue light
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Supports retinal development and reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases
Yes, your baby's eye health can be affected by your diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding. A well-balanced diet rich in eye-healthy nutrients is crucial for properly developing your baby's vision and overall eye health. Essential nutrients to focus on include:
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Carotenoids that protect the eyes from oxidative stress and blue light
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Supports retinal development and reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases
- Vitamin C and E: Antioxidants that help protect the eyes from damage and maintain eye health
To support your baby's eye health and development during pregnancy and breastfeeding, follow these guidelines:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in eye-healthy nutrients, such as vitamin A, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, and vitamin E
- Take prenatal vitamins as recommended by your healthcare provider to ensure adequate nutrient intake
- Stay well-hydrated to support overall health, including eye health
- Manage any pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, which can affect both your own and your baby's eye health
- Schedule regular prenatal checkups and discuss any concerns about your baby's eye health with your doctor
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.
- American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2020). Dry Eye Syndrome - Diagnosis and Treatment. Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/dry-eye-treatment
- American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2020). Eye Changes During Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/eye-changes-during-pregnancy
- American Optometric Association. (n.d.). Dry Eye. Retrieved from https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/eye-and-vision-conditions/dry-eye?sso=y
- Gipson, I.K. (2004). The ocular surface: the challenge to enable and protect vision. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 45(10), 3349-3353. Retrieved from https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2401479
- National Eye Institute. (2019). Dry Eye. Retrieved from https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/dry-eye
- National Eye Institute. (2020). Keep Your Eyes Healthy: Eat Well.
- Royal National Institute of Blind People. (n.d.). Dry Eye Syndrome.
- Schiffman, R.M., Christianson, M.D., Jacobsen, G., Hirsch, J.D., & Reis, B.L. (2000). Reliability and validity of the Ocular Surface Disease Index. Archives of Ophthalmology, 118(5), 615-621. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaophthalmology/article-abstract/262525
- Sweeney, D.F., Millar, T.J., & Raju, S.R. (2013). Tear film stability: a review. Experimental Eye Research, 117, 28-38.
- The College of Optometrists. (2018). Pregnancy and Your Eyes.
- Versura, P., Giannaccare, G., & Campos, E.C. (2015). Sex-steroid imbalance in females and dry eye. Current Eye Research, 40(2), 162-175.
- Wickham, L.A., Gao, J., Toda, I., Rocha, E.M., Ono, M., & Sullivan, D.A. (2000). Identification of androgen, estrogen, and progesterone receptor mRNAs in the eye. Acta Ophthalmologica Scandinavica, 78(2), 146-153. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1034/j.1600-0420.2000.078002146.x
- American Pregnancy Association. (2020). Eye Health During Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://americanpregnancy.org/healthy-pregnancy/pregnancy-health-wellness/eye-health-during-pregnancy-581/
- Datta, P., Baudouin, C., Brignole-Baudouin, F., Denoyer, A., & Cortopassi, G.A. (2012). The eye: A window to the soul of the immune system. Journal of Autoimmunity, 45, 7-14.
- Gunes, A., Tok, L., Tok, O., & Demir, A. (2015). Pregnancy-induced progression of keratoconus. Cornea, 34(10), e32-34. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/corneajrnl/Abstract/2015/10000/Pregnancy_Induced_Progression_of_Keratoconus.24.aspx
- Moisseiev, E., & Ohana, O. (2015). Pregnancy-associated retinal diseases and their management. Survey of Ophthalmology, 60(5), 456-478.
- Rodriguez-Garcia, A., & King-Smith, P.E. (2010). Blinking and tear break-up time. Optometry and Vision Science, 87(6), 367-372. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/optvissci/Abstract/2010/06000/Blinking_and_Tear_Break_Up_Time.4.aspx
- Toda, I. (2012). Dry eye after LASIK. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 53(6), 3642-3654. Retrieved from https://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2352086
- World Health Organization. (2021). Micronutrient deficiencies. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/micronutrients/en/
- Yoon, K.C., Jeong, I.Y., & Park, Y.G. (2007). Interblink interval in young women with dry eye symptoms. Korean Journal of Ophthalmology, 21(3), 156-161. Retrieved from https://www.ekjo.org/journal/view.php?number=529