Month two Q&A
Q:I’m a diabetic and just found out I’m two months pregnant. Of course, my gynaecologist will be watching me like a hawk, but I also feel the need for some specialist advice on my eyesight, as I know that this can also be affected.
A:Inge answers: High blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can cause damage to the small blood vessels in the eye’s retina and cause them to bleed or leak fluid. The risk of this condition, called diabetic retinopathy, increases during pregnancy and is the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes. The body produces a lot of hormones during pregnancy and can occasionally cause insulin resistance where the body can’t produce enough insulin to regulate sugar. If pregnant women experience blurred vision or excessive thirst, they should be tested for diabetes. A temporary form of diabetes can occur during pregnancy and this may also lead to blurred vision. If you are diabetic, frequent eye check-ups during pregnancy are necessary. This will detect any changes that might occur and may be treated right away to prevent blindness. There are additional areas of the eye that could be damaged by diabetes: • Retina – the tissue that lines the inside of the eye and converts incoming light to a visual “message” via the optic nerve to the brain. • Lens – the lens of the eye is transparent and sits behind the iris (coloured part of the eye). It helps to focus light on the retina. • Vitreous fluid – the transparent, colourless mass that fills the space between the lens and retina. • Optic nerve – it connects the eye to the brain and carries visual messages from the retina to your brain and from your brain to the eye muscles. Therefore, if you have diabetes and are planning to get pregnant, you should have a comprehensive eye examination with your optometrist and discuss diabetic retinal problems. If you are diabetic and pregnant, a comprehensive eye examination is recommended during the first trimester or as soon as possible. If you start to develop diabetes during pregnancy, there is not an increased risk of retinal problems, unless your diabetes continues after your pregnancy. Pregnant women with high blood pressure can be at risk of pre-eclampsia, a serious condition that can put both the mother and baby at risk. In addition to high blood pressure, if pregnant women experience any blurred vision, sensitivity to bright light or loss of vision, they should consult their doctor immediately. Always let your optometrist know if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding during an eye examination. In certain cases, your optometrist may avoid using dilating eye drops or other tests. Some of the chemicals in eye drops that are used to dilate the eyes can be absorbed into the breastmilk.