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Causes of Dry Eyes During Pregnancy

author image Virginia Franco
Based in Charlotte, N.C., Virginia Franco has more than 15 years experience freelance writing. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including the education magazine "My School Rocks" and Work.com. Franco has a master's degree in social work with an emphasis in health care from the University of Maryland and a journalism degree from the University of Richmond.
Causes of Dry Eyes During Pregnancy
A warm compress can sometimes open up oil glands and temporarily relieve pregnancy-related dry eye. Photo Credit pregnancy expectation image by forca from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Pregnancy causes most parts of a woman’s body to change, and the eyes are no exception. Dry eye is a common pregnancy ailment that usually begins toward the end of the first trimester. It will usually continue throughout the pregnancy and possibly for a few months after the baby’s birth. In addition to dry eye, other subtle eye changes can occur during pregnancy, causing irritation and sometimes difficulty wearing contact lenses.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes, particularly a decline of the male androgen hormone, cause dry eye, according to the BabyCentre.co.uk website. Because these hormonal levels remain constant during delivery and nursing, women who nurse may continue to experience dry eye symptoms. In addition to dry eyes, many women report the feeling of their eyes burning or that there is something gritty in them. Other women experience light sensitivity and eye itchiness. Pregnant women with dry eye should use lubricating or rewetting eye drops to provide symptom relief.

Decreased Tear Production

The hormonal changes caused by pregnancy usually causes decreased tear production, according to the Natural Eye Care website. A smaller volume of tears directly translates into dryer eyes.

Oil Gland Production

A woman’s oil glands act differently during pregnancy than they would normally. These gland changes cause many pregnant women to develop acne. For others, the SheKnows Pregnancy and Baby website points out, they block the lipid and oil production used in eye lubrication. This reduction in lipids and oils actually changes the consistency of a woman’s tears. As a result, there is nothing to prevent the eyelids from rubbing against the eye when blinking, which contributes to dry eye. Pregnant women can apply hot compresses to the eye region in an attempt to temporarily open blocked oil glands.

Increased Tears

While most women experience a decrease in tear production with dry eye, some experience the opposite. Some will experience increased tearing when the irritated ocular surface reflexively creates poor quality tears, according to SheKnows Pregnancy and Baby, in an attempt to lubricate the eye and eliminate the irritant.

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