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What to know about dry eyes during pregnancy

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If the eyes do not produce enough tears or cannot maintain a healthy moisture layer, a person may have dry eye syndrome. People may experience dry eyes during pregnancy due to fluctuating hormone levels.

The overall rateTrusted Source of dry eyes is higher during pregnancy. Doctors do not fully understand what causes this phenomenon, but hormonal shifts may make it more difficult for the eyes to produce enough tears. Dry eyes in pregnancy can be uncomfortable, but several treatments can help.

This article discusses the symptoms and causes of dry eyes in pregnancy. It also explains the home remedies and medical treatments that people can use to manage this condition.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms, “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

Symptoms of dry eyes during pregnancy 

Close-up of pregnant woman with closed eyes doing meditation sitting on the bed with crossed legs at home
Eloisa Ramos/Stocksy

An individual may notice the following dry eye symptoms:

  • eyes that feel dry, itchy, or uncomfortable
  • feeling the need to blink frequently
  • sensitivity to light
  • watery eyes
  • dried mucus or stringy fluid in the corners of the eyes
  • red eyes
  • trouble putting in or taking out contact lenses, in those who wear them
  • changes in visionTrusted Source
  • a sensation of the eyes feeling tired or droopy
  • feeling as though something is in the eyes

Causes

Researchers do not yet fully understand why pregnant people commonly experience dry eyes, but several studies support this finding. For example, a 2019 studyTrusted Source of 134 pregnant people in Nigeria found that dry eyes peaked in the third trimester, with the lowest rates at 6 weeks postpartum.

Females are more likely than males to have dry eyes, especially when hormonal changes occur, such as during pregnancy or menopause or when taking some forms of birth control.

Males have higher levels of hormones called androgens, which include testosterone. These hormones may protect them from dry eyes because they supportTrusted Source tear production from the lacrimal glands. Although females also have these sex hormones, their levels are lower, which might explain why they have higher rates of dry eyes than males.

Androgens alone cannot explain dry eyes during pregnancy, as these hormones usually increase during pregnancy. For example, testosterone levels rise by about 70%Trusted Source during pregnancy.

However, the levels of estradiol — a hormone present in higher levels in most females — also increase with pregnancy. Estradiol may counteract the protective effects of androgens by suppressing genes that help with tear production. This action might explain why more people experience dry eyes as their pregnancy progresses.

Aside from hormone fluctuations, various other health conditions and lifestyle factors can cause dry eyes. People should, therefore, see a doctor for an evaluation. Other potential causes of dry eyes includeTrusted Source:

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