Dry Eyes During Pregnancy
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In this article:
- Are Dry Eyes A Symptom Of Pregnancy?
- What Causes Dry Eyes During Pregnancy?
- Safe Treatments For Dry Eyes
- Treatments To Avoid
Are Dry Eyes A Symptom Of Pregnancy?
Dry eyes can be caused by a number of factors but sometimes pregnancy is to blame. Dry eyes are typically a result of environmental factors but if you’re pregnant, it may be worth talking to your doctor about.
What Causes Dry Eyes During Pregnancy?
Hormones! What else? Hormonal changes occur constantly during pregnancy. They’re your best friend but also your worst enemy as they take your body and emotions on the craziest roller coaster ride of your life. They’re necessary for a healthy baby but man, do they wreak havoc on you!
A tear film is spread over your eye every time you blink. This is what normally keeps your eyes comfortable and lubricated. Prolactin levels change during pregnancy and research has shown that this can ultimately affect the tear film that your body produces. Prolactin is essential in creating breast milk to nourish your baby after their arrival to the real world. Prolactin levels can increase by 10-20 times of your pre-pregnancy levels! So in other words, it’s goodbye lubricated eyeballs and hello healthy breast milk! It’s really a fair trade if you think about it.
Dehydration also increases symptoms of dry eyes. If you aren’t one of the lucky future moms who have held down their meals, then you’ve likely experienced your fair share of nausea and vomiting. Ah, yes! Good ol’ morning sickness. Or, for some women, it’s morning, noon and night sickness. It can be hard to stay adequately hydrated when you’re struggling to keep anything down. All of that upchucking depletes your body of liquid which means everything dries out- even your eyes. Unfortunately, anti-nausea medications can also contribute to dehydration.
Safe Treatments For Dry Eyes
There is hope! First, try a warm compress. The heat can help stimulate natural tears and restore moisture but this is usually a temporary relief. You can talk to your doctor, preferably an ophthalmologist, about your dry eye woes. They can prescribe lubricating eye drops which provide quick comfort. Eating foods that are plentiful in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, leafy vegetables, vegetable oils, walnuts, and flax seeds can also help. Not only can they help ease your dry eyes, they’re also just good for you, period. Definitely an Instagram worthy plate! Omega-3 fatty acids are one of the few fats that your body has to get from food. We can’t make them on our own. Your body will thank you.
If you’ve been blessed with blurry vision, try skipping the contacts for a while. Contacts don’t necessarily contribute to dry eyes but wearing them when your eyes are not properly lubricated can just cause further irritation. You have enough irritation in your life right now. Plus, glasses are sexy. Own those spectacles, sister!
Your eye doctor may also recommend punctal occlusion, or plugging your tear ducts. It sounds a lot worse than it actually is. In fact, it’s a completely painless procedure. This procedure doesn’t plug the gland that produces tears, but instead plugs the drainage system that takes the tears away from your eye. In other words, it plugs the drain, not the faucet. This procedure is entirely safe for pregnant women and it is typically used when lubricating eye drops aren’t able to offer enough relief.
A temporary, absorbable plug can be put in to see if it is effective before having a long-term plug placed. I know what you’re thinking- another medical device probed into your body. Ah, the joys of pregnancy! Don’t fret. The temporary plug is a great option for pregnancy since your dry eyes will likely resolve after giving birth as your prolactin levels decrease. The temporary plugs are made of collagen and they dissolve after a few months. Your doctor will measure your eye and find the right size plug for you.
Treatments To Avoid
Always check with your doctor before using over-the-counter eye drops. Some eye drops contain corticosteroids which can be harmful to a fetus. Studies on birth defects in humans who were exposed to corticosteroids through the mother’s eyes have not been done. However, similar medications have been shown to cause birth defects in animals when they were applied to the eyes of pregnant animals. When in doubt, just ask your doctor or pharmacist what they recommend. Always make sure your medical professional knows all of the medications you are currently taking, both over the counter and prescribed. Combining safe medications can sometimes cause unwanted effects.
- Mariah Hammond