Pregnancy And The Eye


Occasionally, eye findings are pointers to underlying systemic diseases, facilitating early diagnosis.

“The eyes are the window to the soul.” — English proverb.

In general, many systemic diseases have ocular manifestations. This is more so, in pregnancy. Thus vision changes such as increased light sensitivity, seeing flashing lights, floaters or loss of vision can be indicators of the following potentially serious health issues in pregnancy:

  1. Pre-Eclampsia – This condition is defined as the new onset of hypertension and proteinuria during the second half of pregnancy. Visual disturbances, such as double vision and increased sensitivity to light are seen in 25% of women with severe pre-eclampsia and in 50% of women with eclampsia.

  2. Gestational Diabetes – This is a transient form of diabetes that affects pregnant women. The high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the small blood vessels that supply the retina.

  3. High Blood Pressure – Increase in blood pressure during pregnancy can cause blurred vision and seeing of spots. It can worsen, causing retinal detachment.

So whenever, you notice changes in your vision during pregnancy, see your doctor, so that proper examinations can be conducted.eye check-up GLAUCOMA IN PREGNANCY

It does seem like good news that pregnancy has beneficial effects on glaucoma patients as the disease may not progress during this period.

In pregnancy, intraocular pressure tends to reduce and this is the main therapeutic goal in glaucoma.

However, women being treated for glaucoma should inform their eye doctor right away if they are pregnant or intend to become pregnant. This is because, while many glaucoma medications are safe in pregnancy, others such as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (acetazolamide, methazolamide, brinzolamide) can be harmful to the developing baby, thus dosage adjustment or change in prescription may be required.

Beta adrenoceptor blockers such as atenolol, nadolol, labetalol, betaxolol and carteolol should be avoided or dosage adjustment employed, in the first trimester of pregnancy. Also therapy with Beta Blockers should be stopped not less than 2 days before labor and delivery to avoid beta-blockade in the newborn characterized by difficulty in breathing and low blood sugar.

Eye Diseases That May Worsen In Pregnancy

  • Diabetic Retinopathy – This is a diabetes complication that affect the eyes. This condition worsens in pregnancy if the woman has poorly controlled blood sugar. In other words, if a woman has mild retinopathy, it may progress to a much more severe form, during pregnancy. However, if the blood sugar levels are well-controlled, you can be free from this complication.

    If you are diabetic, see an Ophthalmologist periodically during pregnancy and postpartum.

  • Thyroid Eye Disease (TED) –TED is an autoimmune condition in which immune cells attack the thyroid gland and in response, the gland secretes excess amount of thyroid hormone, causing enlargement of the thyroid gland. The markedly high levels of thyroid hormone produced plunges the biologic system into a hypermetabolic state, often characterized by increase in heartbeat, palpitations, fatigue, profuse sweating, heat intolerance, high blood pressure, irritability, weight loss and loss of hair. With the attack of the immune system on ocular tissues, eye muscles become inflamed, causing ‘staring’ or ‘bulging’ eyes and double vision, eventually.

    Related Reading: Ocular Changes in Pregnancy

  1. Sunness JS and Santos A. (2001). Pregnancy and the Mother’s eye. In: Duane’s Clinical Ophthalmology on CD-ROM. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
  2. Sharma S, Wuntakal R, Anand A, Sharma TK and Downey G. (2100). Pregnancy and the eye. Online Wiley Library. The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist Volume 8, Issue 3, 24 Jan. 2011.
  3. Khawla AS (2013). The eye and visual system in the preeclampsia/eclampsia syndrome: What to expect? Saudi J Ophthalmol. 2013 Jan; 27(1): 51–53. doi: 1016/j.sjopt.2012.04.003
  4. Auger N, Fraser WD, Paradis G, Healy-Profitós J, Hsieh A, Rhéaume MA. (2017). Preeclampsia and Long-term Risk of Maternal Retinal Disorders. Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Jan; 129(1):42-49. doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001758.
Article Medically Reviewed by:
Dr H.C. Ogbuehi (MBBS, FMC Oph., FWACS)



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