Dry Eyes During Pregnancy: Are They Normal or Not?
Our bodies go through incredible changes during pregnancy. It’s hard to know what’s normal and what’s not. Your pregnancy is as individual as you are, and your baby is going to make itself at home however it sees fit!
Dry eyes during pregnancy are a common occurrence. It typically worsens towards the end of your first trimester. But when does a case of dry eyes become dry eye syndrome, and what can you do to treat it?
It's important to understand how your eyes may react to pregnancy. That’s why we’re here to look at how dry eyes during pregnancy can be managed.
Why Do Our Eyes Get Dry During Pregnancy?
Let’s talk about hormones. The massive hormonal changes your body experiences during pregnancy is like an explosion in your body. Everything gets thrown out of whack. Your weight, your skin, your mood; it all changes and there isn't much you can do about it!
Nothing dries your body out quicker than significant hormonal changes. The same irritating hormones that cause acne in pregnancy affect the meibomian glands that line your eyelids. These glands keep your tears nice and oily. It may sound odd, but your tears need oil to create a film of moisture on your eyes that won’t evaporate.
Hormones may also be responsible for a drop in the amount of tears you produce. Without adequate moisture, your eyes will feel uncomfortable. And if you wear contact lenses, you’ll feel even worse.
Dry eyes may bother you for months after you have your baby. Breastfeeding can make dry eyes worse and symptoms can continue even when lactation stops.
This sounds like a tough road, but there are ways you can treat dry eyes at home.
How to Treat Dry Eyes
Dry eyes can happen to anyone, but some are more susceptible to it than others. It is particularly common in older women, people who use computer screens in excess and people on certain medications.
Whether you’re pregnant or not, there are steps you can take to treat your dry eye. However, we do recommend visiting an eye doctor before looking at OTC remedies. He or she will diagnose your dry eyes so you know there’s nothing more sinister taking place.
Artificial tears are the easiest way to treat your symptoms. Make a quick trip to the drug store, tilt your head back, and bingo, instant relief! But which artificial tears are the best?
There are many brands available, but we recommend any that replaces missing lipids in tears. It's challenging to figure out which brands do this on your own, so get help from your pharmacist. He or she can double check that the artificial tears are safe to use during pregnancy and with contacts.
Bear in mind that artificial tears are a temporary fix for dry eyes. They’re not advisable for long-term use and shouldn’t be used unless you’ve got the go-ahead from your eye doctor.
Another way to treat dry eyes is with a warm compress. Soak a cloth in hot water or use a compress you warm up in the microwave. Then, gently press it against your eyes. Make sure the compress is warm, not burning hot.
The heat from the compress will stimulate blood flow to your eyelids and open up your meibomian glands. This will bathe your eyes in oily tears that’ll help them get back to normal.
If your dry eyes do not respond to these steps, your optometrist might recommend punctal occlusion. This is when your eye doctor blocks off your tear ducts.
There are small openings at the corners of your eyes where tears drain through. It might sound counter-intuitive, but if you block these ducts, there will be more tears available at the front of your eyes to keep them moist. This procedure can be safely carried out with pregnant patients.
Try Contacts Made Specifically for Dry Eyes
If you wear contact lenses, you may be able to treat your dry eyes by changing the brand of lenses you wear. Certain contact lenses are better than others at maintaining a healthy level of moisture in the eye.
For example, Dailies Aqua Comfort Plus lenses offer a comfortable wearing experience. It has the added convenience of being disposable. These lenses have a 69% water content. Plus, they contain polyvinyl alcohol and polyethylene glycols that are released on blinking. This technology is referred to as “blink-activated moisture.”
Other Common Eye Issues During Pregnancy
Dryness and irritation are not the only issues you may experience with your eyes during pregnancy. Here are a few more things to look out for.
Puffy eyes are common. Fluctuating hormone levels cause water retention. Many women experience swelling in their ankles or a bit of puffiness in their faces.
Sometimes, even the eyelids can become swollen, which is uncomfortable. Unless the swelling is extreme and affecting your vision, this isn’t anything to worry about. Address the water retention by improving your diet and upping hydration. This will reduce the swelling.
Blurry vision can also strike during pregnancy. If your eyelids are swollen, it’s likely that your cornea is too. Water retention can make the cornea change size and shape. As it’s responsible for focusing light, this can make your vision blurry. Again, nothing to worry about too much.
It’s advisable to get a new prescription from your eye doctor so you can change your contact lenses and see clearly during your pregnancy. Otherwise, just switch to glasses. Your vision should return to normal after you have your baby.
If your vision is very blurry or you have other unusual symptoms, consult your optometrist immediately. Serious health issues during pregnancy can impact your vision. These include preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, so it’s important to rule those out.
Get Relief for Your Dry Eyes
Dry eyes during pregnancy is to be expected. Now that you know what’s normal and what’s not, you can count your vision as one more thing you’ve got under control. You’ve got all the tips and tricks to help alleviate those annoying symptoms.