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How Pregnancy Can Affect Your Eyesight

Pregnancy can impact almost every part of a woman’s body and health — including her eyes. In fact, an estimated 14% of pregnant women report experiencing visual changes during pregnancy that usually resolve on their own within a couple of months after giving birth.

Knowing the different visual symptoms that can present when you’re expecting can help alert you to potential underlying health concerns that your physician may need to address.

Normal Visual Changes During Pregnancy

Blurred Vision

Blurred vision is the most common visual symptom that pregnant women may experience. Hormonal fluctuations are usually to blame for the temporary decrease in visual acuity, and your eyesight will likely return to normal soon after giving birth.

The influx of pregnancy hormones causes fluid retention in some areas of the body and can cause the cornea to thicken slightly. As a result, the light entering the eye isn’t focused accurately and vision may be blurred.

Less commonly, blurred vision can signal gestational diabetes, a pregnancy complication affecting 6-9% of pregnant women. The rise in blood sugar level impacts the focusing lens of the eye, leading to blurry vision. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, including gestational diabetes, it’s a good idea to book an eye exam to monitor for retinal changes.

Blurred vision is also a common side effect of dry eye syndrome, a condition characterized by tears that don’t adequately lubricate the eyes, which can be brought on or exacerbated by pregnancy.

Eye Dryness

Pregnancy hormones can cause a reduction in the amount of tears your eyes produce or affect the quality of the tears. These changes can affect a woman throughout her entire pregnancy, but studies show that eye dryness is particularly common in the last trimester. For this reason, some women find it difficult to wear contact lenses in their third trimester and temporarily switch to glasses.

Eye Puffiness

Yet another body part that swells during pregnancy: the eyelids and tissues around the eyes.

Pregnancy-related water retention may cause your eyelids to appear puffier than during your pre-pregnancy days. You may also notice darker areas under the eyes. If your puffy eyes bother you, try limiting your salt and caffeine intake, as they can worsen the problem.

Visual Changes That May Indicate a Problem

The following visual changes warrant a prompt call to your eye doctor or obstetrician to rule out any underlying complications.

Flashes or floaters

Seeing stars during pregnancy can signal high blood pressure, which is associated with preeclampsia — a serious medical condition that requires close monitoring by your physician and possible treatment.

It’s crucial to have your blood pressure monitored throughout your pregnancy, as preeclampsia can potentially endanger the life of mother and child, as well as damage the cornea and retina.

Temporary vision loss

Temporary vision loss is concerning for pregnant and non-pregnant individuals. Vision loss is another warning sign of preeclampsia, so contact your doctor promptly if you suddenly lose any portion of your visual field.

Sensitivity to light

Light-sensitivity can either be a normal side effect of fluid retention in the eye, or it can signal dangerously high blood pressure and preeclampsia.

How We Can Help

At ​​Loudoun Eye Associates, our goal is to keep your vision and eyes healthy throughout your pregnancy and beyond. If you experience any visual symptoms, we can help by thoroughly examining your eyes to determine the underlying cause and provide you with guidance on what next steps to take.

Pregnancy is a wonderful time, when self care should be at the forefront — and that includes comprehensive eye care.

To schedule an eye exam or learn more about our eye care services, call Loudoun Eye Associates in Ashburn today!

Q&A

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Richard Kao

Q: Why are regular eye exams important?

  • A: Having your eyes evaluated by an optometrist on a regular basis is crucial for detecting early signs of eye diseases and changes in your prescription, including during pregnancy. Many serious eye diseases don’t cause any noticeable symptoms until they’ve progressed to late stages, when damage to vision may be irreversible. Whether or not you wear glasses or contact lenses for vision correction, ask your optometrist about how often to schedule a routine eye exam.

Q: Will my baby need an eye exam after birth?

  • A: According to the American Optometric Association and the Canadian Association of Optometrists, babies should have an eye exam within the first 6-12 months of life, even in the absence of noticeable vision problems. Healthy vision is a significant part of healthy overall development, so be sure not to skip your baby’s eye exams!

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Ashburn, Virginia. Visit Loudoun Eye Associates for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.

Are Floaters and Flashes Dangerous?

You’ve likely experienced occasional visual “floaters” or flashes and may have wondered what they were and if they’re a cause for concern. They look like tiny lines, shapes, shadows, or specks that appear to be drifting in the visual field. More often than not, seeing floaters is a normal occurrence and does not indicate a problem with ocular or visual health. However, when floaters become more frequent and are accompanied by flashes of light, that can indicate a more serious problem.

Eye flashes resemble star-like specks or strands of light that either flash or flicker in one’s field of vision. They can either be a single burst in one visual zone, or can be several flashes throughout a wider area. Flashes can sometimes be missed as they most often appear in the side or peripheral vision.

Floaters & Flashes Eye Care in Ashburn, Virginia

If you suddenly, or with increasing frequency, experience flashes or floaters, call Loudoun Eye Associates and schedule an eye exam with Dr. Richard Kao right away to rule out any serious eye conditions.

What Causes Floaters?

The vitreous in the eye is a clear gel that fills most of the eyeball and resembles raw egg-white. Within the vitreous are small lumps of protein that drift around and move with the motion of your eyes. When these tiny lumps of protein cast shadows on the retina — the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye — the shadows appear as floaters.

As we age, the vitreous shrinks, creating more strands of protein. This is why the appearance of floaters may increase with time. Floaters tend to be more prevalent in nearsighted people and diabetics, and occur more frequently following cataract surgery or an eye injury.

If seeing floaters becomes bothersome, try moving your eyes up and down or side to side to gently relocate the floaters away from your visual field.

What Causes Flashes?

Flashes result from the retinal nerve cells being moved or tugged on. As the vitreous shrinks over time, it can tug at the retina, causing you to “see stars” or bursts of light. The process of the vitreous separating from the retina is called “posterior vitreous detachment” (PVD) and usually isn’t dangerous.

In about 16% of cases, PVD causes tiny tears in the retina that can lead to retinal detachment — a sight-threatening condition that causes irreversible blindness if left untreated.

Other possible causes of flashes are eye trauma or migraine headaches.

When To Call Your Optometrist About Floaters

If you experience any of the following symptoms, promptly make an appointment with an eye doctor near you for emergency eye care.

Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore

  • A sudden onset of floaters accompanied by flashes (which can be any shape or size)
  • An increase of floaters accompanied by a darkening of one side of the visual field
  • Shadows in the peripheral vision
  • Any time flashes are seen

In many cases, seeing floaters is no cause for concern; however the above symptoms could indicate retinal detachment—which, if left untreated, could cause a permanent loss of sight or even blindness.

If the receptionists pick up the phone and hear the main concern is floaters or flashes, they will try to squeeze in the appointment within 24 hours. Expect the pupils to be dilated during your eye exam, so the eye doctor can get a really good look at the peripheral retina to diagnose or rule out a retinal tear or other serious condition, as opposed to a non-vision-threatening condition such as uncomplicated posterior vitreous detachment (quite common) or ocular migraine.

Please contact Loudoun Eye Associates in Ashburn at 703-724-0330 with any further questions, or to schedule an eye doctor’s appointment.

My Eyelid Hurts, Do I Have a Stye?

Emergency Eye Care Services Near You in Ashburn

First of all, don’t panic! Styes may cause pain, yet they are generally harmless and very rarely have any effects on your vision or eyeball. In addition, they’re pretty common. Most people experience at least one or two styes at some point during their life, and these irritating bumps tend to recur. If you have swelling, tenderness and red-hot pain near the edge of your eyelid, don’t wait for your annual eye exam to get it checked.

What is a Stye?

A stye is a small lump either on the inside or outside of your eyelid. Most of the time a stye is visible on the surface, yet sometimes they can occur deep inside the eyelid. What’s inside this lump? It is a pus-filled abscess, generally due to an eye infection by staphylococcus bacteria.

All Styes are Not the Same

When a stye is located on the outside of your eyelid, it begins as a small spot next to an eyelash. Over the next few days, it will develop into a red and painful swelling. Typically, the stye will then burst and heal. Fortunately, the whole experience begins and ends relatively fast.

An internal stye, which is located on the underside of your eyelid, also leads to a red and painful swelling. However, the hidden location prevents the stye from creating a whitehead. Instead, it will disappear slowly once the infection is past, or a small cyst filled with fluid may remain. If that happens, your Ashburn eye doctor may need to open and drain the cyst.

Cause of Styes

Many types of friendly bacteria live and breed on the surface of your skin, all of the time. Yet, when the conditions are right, some of these bacteria – such as the staphylococcal bacteria – feast on dead skin cells and other debris. As a result, a stye can develop. The process is similar to the way in which pimples appear.

In addition, a chronic facial condition called rosacea may be the root of your stye problem. Visit your eye doctor or dermatologist to diagnose rosacea and prescribe the best medical treatment.

Signs that You Need Emergency Eye Care

Extreme symptoms of inflammation and pain are typical reasons that patients call our Ashburn, eye doctor for urgent care. However, even if you experience only mild irritation and swelling of your eyelid, you need to consult with an eye doctor if it doesn’t go away within a few weeks.

We advise you to seek medical advice for the following:

  • Eyelid swelling that interferes with your vision
  • Inflammation that doesn’t disappear within a week or two
  • Pain in your eye
  • Recurrent styes; these can indicate a chronic skin problem

Treatment for Styes in Ashburn

Fortunately, most styes will improve and heal on their own within a few weeks. Never try to pop or squeeze a stye! It’s important to let them rupture and release the pus on their own. With regard to self-care, our eye doctor recommends that you apply warm compresses to your closed eyes for about 10 minutes, four times a day for a few days. The mild heat will relieve your pain and swelling as it also encourages the style to come to a head. As soon as you see the white head appear, continue applying warm compresses to promote bursting.

Sometimes, medical treatment is necessary and only a qualified eye doctor can evaluate your condition fully. If your style was caused by an infected eyelash follicle, we may need to remove the lash closest to the stye. Other times, the pus may need to be drained. After this procedure, the eyelid heals rapidly.

Is there a way to prevent styes?

If you find that your styes recur frequently, it’s a sign that you need to improve your eyelid hygiene. Start using lid scrubs to remove excess cellular debris and germs. Follow these steps:

  1. Add a few drops of mild baby shampoo into a cup filled with warm water. Stir well.
  2. Dip a cotton wool ball into the mixture and gently rub the soapy solution along the baseline of your eyelashes. Keep your eyelids closed while you do this.

We also recommend that you take care not to dry your face on dirty towels, rub your eyes with dirty hands, or use old and/or shared cosmetics.

Many of our Ashburn patients tell us that they felt pinpoint tenderness near a few eyelashes before the stye appeared. If you experience this, you may be able to prevent the stye from forming by applying warm compresses frequently. Being proactive in this way can help you avoid further blockage of the eyelid glands.

Remember, while styes can be very painful – they do not typically pose any hazard to your vision. If you have symptoms of a stye, our eye doctor will provide emergency eye care to help alleviate the pain and promote healing.

At Loudoun Eye Associates, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 703-724-0330 or book an appointment online to see one of our Ashburn eye doctors.

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Please note: Our office will be closed on Monday, July 4th and reopen on Tuesday July 5th. Thank you.