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.
“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.”
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
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.
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”
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.
THE FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT DRY EYES
- Dry eye syndrome is estimated to affect between 5% and 33% of the adult population worldwide. DEWS 2007, McDonald 2016, Puck 2016.
- Prevalence estimates vary depending on the definition of dry eye disease used, the age of the cohort and the country where the study was conducted Prokopich, 2014.
- Dry eye syndrome is more common in people aged 50 years or older, in females and those who have had refractive surgery. Schaumberg, 2003; DEWS, 2007; Lemp, 2008; Schaumberg, 2009; Pucker, 2016.
- The prevalence of dry eye syndrome increases from 7.5% in people aged in their fifties to 15% in their seventies. College of Optometrists, 2015.
- The male-to-female ratio is 2:3. Bron, 2014; College of Optometrists, 2015.
- One population-based cross-sectional study (n = 3,824 women aged 20–87 years) using data from the TwinsUK study found that 9.6% of women had a diagnosis of dry eye disease, and 20.8% had had dry eye symptoms in the preceding 3 months. The largest sizes were found in women with depression, pelvic pain, irritable bowel syndrome or chronic widespread pain syndrome (p<0.0005). Vehof, 2014.
THE FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT DRY EYES (CONT.)
- A US study using retrospective data from the National Veterans Administration (VA) database (n = 3.41 million visits to VA eye clinics (17.4% with dry eye disease)) suggested that the prevalence of dry eye may vary with season. In the study, the prevalence was found to be highest in winter and spring (18.7%±0.98 and 18.5%±4.16 respectively) and lowest in summer (15.3%±0.82). Kumar, 2015.
- Around 1 in 10 UK women has dry eye disease, requiring artificial tears.
- Although it can affect people of any age, it is more prevalent in women and older people. It is reported that 15 to 33% of people aged 65 years or over have dry eye disease. This is likely to underestimate the true prevalence as people with mild symptoms may not report the condition to their doctor. Approximately 20% of people with dry eye disease have severe disease.
- Dry Eye Disease (DED) is the most common ocular surface disorder, affecting approximately 350 million people worldwide and causing persistent eye irritation, blurred vision, pain and decreased quality of life.