By: 10 March 2017
Does pre-eclampsia during pregnancy increase risk to mothers’ eyes?

A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests that pre-eclampsia may be associated with retinal disease in the mother later in life. Pre-eclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterised by high blood pressure and large amounts of protein in the urine. According to this study, more severe and earlier-onset pre-eclampsia was associated with even higher risk.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has concerns about the way this research was conducted and its conclusions. At the moment there is no reason to suggest any change to eye health care for pregnant women or follow-up care for women who have had pre-eclampsia in the past.

Pregnancy can cause temporary changes in vision for mothers including dry eye and slight near-sightedness. Pre-eclampsia, which occurs in 3 to 5 per cent of pregnant women, can result in significant eye changes such as retinal disease and even retinal detachment.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s recommendations are unchanged: Expectant mothers or those with a history of pre-eclampsia should be aware of changes in their vision and contact their doctor if they have concerns. Retinal disease may be signaled by symptoms including:

  • blurred vision
  • spots in vision or areas that are black or gray
  • flashes of light – loss of colour vision
  • loss of central or side vision
  • curtain or shadow over vision
  • complete loss of vision

All women should get a baseline eye exam by age 40. Women with diabetes should be examined yearly for retinal and other ocular disease, regardless of age. Your optician may also recommend an examination schedule based on the specifics of your case.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO)

Reference: Nathalie Auger, William D. Fraser, Gilles Paradis, Jessica Healy-Profitós, Ada Hsieh, Marc-André Rhéaume. Preeclampsia and Long-term Risk of Maternal Retinal Disorders. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 2017; 129 (1): 42 DOI: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000001758