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3 Surprising Ways That Pregnancy Can Affect Your Eyes

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When you get pregnant, you expect some things to change. For example, you probably expect to gain weight, crave strange food combinations, or feel sick in the morning. What you may not expect is to experience eye problems and vision changes. But pregnancy really is a full body experience, and that means that your eyes may be affected too. Take a look at a few of the surprising ways that pregnancy may affect your eyes.

Your Contact Lenses Can Get Uncomfortable

If you have been wearing contacts daily or occasionally for any length of time, you're probably used to putting them in and wearing them without thinking much about it. So you may be surprised when one morning you discover that you're having trouble putting your contacts in, or that they feel uncomfortable once you get them in. However, this is more common during pregnancy than you might think.

There are a few reasons why your contacts may feel uncomfortable, or just more trouble than they're worth, when you're pregnant. For one thing, hormonal changes, especially around the end of the first trimester, can cause you to experience dry eye syndrome. If your eyes are dry and scratchy, the contacts may further irritate the situation. For another thing, the same swelling that makes your feet grow a bit during pregnancy may also make your eyes swell too, which changes their shape and can make your contact prescription a less-comfortable fit than it usually is. The good news is that these changes are almost always temporary. You may have to use extra eye drops or switch to glasses for awhile, but your eyes should return to normal within a few months of giving birth (although if you breastfeed, the symptoms may persist a little longer.)

Your Vision May Get Blurry

Even if you don't wear contacts, or don't notice a change in their fit, you may notice a change in your vision. The swelling that can affect how well your contacts fit can also affect how well you see. This is because the fluid buildup that causes the swelling actually changes the curvature of your eye. The result? Blurred vision.

The blurry vision will probably be most noticeable at certain times of day – for example, if you notice that your hands or feet swell up at night, that's probably when you'll notice vision problem too. You probably don't need a new glasses prescription – try just letting your eyes rest for awhile. However, if the blurriness lasts for more than a few hours, or if you experience double vision, spots, or dimmed vision, you may need to see a doctor.

You Could Develop Diabetic Retinopathy

Even if you weren't diabetic before, pregnant women can develop a condition known as gestational diabetes – diabetes that occurs during the pregnancy and usually goes away after you give birth. If you were diabetic before becoming pregnant, you may notice that your diabetes becomes harder to control, or that you experience unusual symptoms. Either way, you run the risk of diabetic retinopathy. This is a condition that is caused by damaged blood vessels in the back of the eye, and, left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Anyone with diabetes can develop diabetic retinopathy, but the more poorly controlled your blood sugar is, the greater your risk.

The symptoms of diabetic retinopathy can be mild and easy to miss at first, but as the condition progresses, you may experience spots or strings in your vision, impaired ability to discern color, dark areas in your vision, or vision loss. If you're diagnosed with gestational diabetes, or if you had diabetes before you became pregnant, you should see your eye doctor early on in your pregnancy. Your eye doctor may want you to have periodic checkups throughout your pregnancy. That way, if you begin showing signs of diabetic retinopathy, it can be treated early, and you may be able to avoid any lasting vision impairment.

The majority of eye and vision problems that you might experience during pregnancy are just temporary inconveniences, so try not to worry too much about them. Just be sure to keep your eye doctor and your obstetrician informed about any strange eye symptoms.