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Most parts of a woman’s body change during pregnancy and eyes are a part of this list. Dry eyes are a well-known side-effect of pregnancy. It usually begins towards the end of the first trimester, may continue throughout the pregnancy and even for months after the baby’s birth. Having dry eyes in the third trimester of pregnancy is quite common. Other eye changes might also occur in addition to dry eyes, causing irritation, especially when contact lenses are worn.
Causes of Dry Eyes During Pregnancy
1. Hormonal Changes
Hormonal changes are one of the major reasons for dry eyes, especially a decrease in the male androgen hormone. During delivery and nursing, these hormonal levels remain constant, but some women may continue to experience dry eye symptoms during nursing.
2. Decreased Tear Production
During pregnancy, hormonal changes usually cause a decline in tear production. Dry eyes are sure to occur when tears are produced in a smaller volume.
3. Oil Gland Production
During pregnancy, the oil glands act differently than they normally do. These oil changes can block the production of lipids that are functioned to lubricate the eye. The consistency of the tears is changed due to this reduction in lipids and oils. As a result, a dry eye is caused when blinking because there is nothing to prevent the eyelids from rubbing against the eye. To temporarily open blocked oil glands, hot compressions can be applied in the region of the eye.
4. Increased Tears
Some women experience an increase in tear production which is an exact opposite of what most women experience. When the ocular surface is irritated, it reflexively produces poor-quality tears to eliminate the irritant and lubricate the eye.
Symptoms of Dry Eyes in Pregnancy
Though generally harmless, having dry eyes in pregnancy can be very uncomfortable and annoying. Some of the symptoms include
- Sticky eyelids, usually when you wake in the morning
- Red or sore eyes
- Moments of blurred vision, which usually goes when you blink
- A gritty feeling in the eyes that tend to become worse as the day goes on
Tips to Relieve Dry Eyes
Here are some tips to comfort dry eyes during pregnancy:
1. Artificial Tears
To lessen the irritation and discomfort of the dry eye syndrome, artificial tears can be used. They are safe to use during pregnancy and nursing. The artificial tears that replace part of the lipid layer in tears are very helpful. If you wear contacts, make sure that you choose appropriate lens re-wetting eye drops.
2. Warm Compressions
The Meibomian glands can be opened up and stimulated by gently giving warm compressions on the eyes. This restores the glands to normal by bringing proper blood flow to the required area.
3. Punctal Occlusion
Plugging your tear ducts, also called punctal occlusion, is a medical procedure that involves blocking your puncta. A puncta is a small opening in the corners of the eye that drains tears. When the puncta is blocked there is an increase in the tears to bathe the front part of the eye. Punctal occlusion is a safe procedure for pregnant women.
When to Consult a Doctor
See a doctor if your symptoms are becoming worse. You may have a bacterial infection and need antibiotic drops. Visit a gynaecologist if you see flashes or flickering because these symptoms could be an early indication of pre-eclampsia. This is an implication of high blood pressure. Flashes and flickering may also be an indication of impairment of the retina. In such cases, consult an eye doctor.
Dry eyes are a common symptom of pregnancy and may be distressing for women. However, it is important that you do not self-medicate. Consult a doctor who will recommend safe remedies for dry eyes during pregnancy.