Pregnancy and your eyes
Blurry vision is common in pregnancy, as the intense and rapid physical changes affect many bodily systems, including the eyes. As a result, pregnant women can experience blurry vision and other vision changes.
Although most pregnancy-related eye conditions are minor and temporary, some can indicate a more serious problem. Visual disturbances like double vision, flashing lights and vision loss require urgent medical attention.
Other common eye problems in pregnancy include eye twitching, dry eyes and eye floaters. Here, we explore some of the possible eye complaints that may present in pregnancy, their causes and what you should do if they occur.
Blurred vision with pregnancy
Many pregnant women experience blurry vision, often due to harmless causes that resolve after pregnancy. In the later stages of pregnancy, changing hormones can cause a build-up of fluid in the eye, increasing the curvature and thickness of your cornea, causing blurred vision (Source: Healthline).
What is pre-eclampsia during pregnancy?
Pre-eclampsia is a serious medical condition that causes high blood pressure, typically after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Symptoms and signs include:
- Seeing flashing lights
- Visual disturbances
- Swelling of the hands, feet, ankles or face
- Pain below the ribs
- Sudden weight gain
- Heartburn that doesn’t get better with antacids (Source: RCOG, Informed Health)
In severe cases, pre-eclampsia can be life-threatening for mother and baby and can even cause seizures, in a condition called eclampsia. Contact your doctor immediately if you have any of the listed symptoms.
Eye twitching during pregnancy
During pregnancy, eye twitching is usually caused by stress and tiredness. Eye twitching occurs due to a spasm of the upper or lower eyelid, and although it’s a nuisance, it’s generally harmless. A deficiency of some vitamins and minerals could lead to eye twitching. Eating a varied diet with plenty of fruit, leafy green vegetables, fish and grains can help you get enough of these essential nutrients.
Dry eyes in pregnancy
Hormonal changes can impact tear production, often leading to dry eyes in pregnancy (Source: RNIB). These changes are more significant in the third trimester, as pregnancy hormones alter the consistency and reduce the volume of your tears.
Some of the symptoms and signs of eye dryness in pregnancy include:
- Light sensitivity
- Itchy eyes
- Red eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Dried mucus around the eyes
Although dry eyes in pregnancy can be uncomfortable, it generally resolves after your baby is born or when you stop breastfeeding.
Factors unrelated to pregnancy, such as allergies, medication and using computer screens without enough breaks, can also cause dry eyes.
Treatments for dry eyes depend on the cause but generally artificial tears to wet your eyes will help make them more comfortable. Your pharmacist or ophthalmology specialist can advise on the best course of treatment for your situation.
Eye floaters in pregnancy
Eye floaters are tiny spots or specks that often appear in your peripheral vision then drift about in your line of sight.
Eye floaters can be harmless in some cases, but it is always safest to get them checked out by your doctor or ophthalmologist as they could be a sign of pre-eclampsia.
The following visual disturbances also require medical attention:
Itchy eyes in pregnancy
Itchy eyes are a common early pregnancy symptom caused by hormones and water retention. Just as fluid retention makes your ankles or legs swell in pregnancy, your eyes can also experience swelling, leading to irritation and itching.
Hormones influence your body’s ability to produce tears (Source: NIH). Normal hormonal changes of pregnancy can result in moisture loss in the eyes, causing itching and other symptoms linked to dry eyes.
Frequently asked questions
Some vision problems and eye changes can be a normal part of pregnancy, but it’s important to be aware of eye symptoms that might indicate a dangerous underlying health condition.
Visual disturbances like eye floaters, spots in your vision, or flashing require urgent medical attention. Other, less serious eye complaints, including dry eyes, itching, and twitching eyes, can be due to hormonal changes, water retention and tiredness. If you're concerned about any changes in your eye health or eyesight, see your doctor or midwife for advice.
Medically reviewed by: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists on 28/07/2022
Edited by: Nick Astbury FRCS FRCOphth FRCP
Clinical Associate Professor
The Royal College of Ophthalmologists champions excellence in the practice of ophthalmology and is the only professional membership body for medically qualified ophthalmologists. The RCOphth is unable to offer direct advice to patients. If you’re concerned about the health of your eyes, you should seek medical advice from your GP, optometrist or ophthalmologist.