Glaucoma—a progressive eye condition characterized by high intraocular pressure—affects more than three million Americans. If you're one of them and are now expecting a child, you may have a lot of questions about your situation. Here are three questions pregnant women have about glaucoma.
Does pregnancy make glaucoma worse?
You may be worried that the hormonal changes that come with pregnancy will worsen your glaucoma, but fortunately, the opposite is true. Pregnancy actually lowers your intraocular pressure, and the further you get into your pregnancy, the more your intraocular pressure decreases.
One study measured the intraocular pressure of a group of pregnant women and compared them to non-pregnant women. The study found that women in all trimesters of pregnancy had lower mean intraocular pressures than their non-pregnant counterparts. Even though pregnancy improves intraocular pressure, it's still important to see your optometrist regularly for eye exams.
Can glaucoma medications harm your baby?
There haven't been many studies done to evaluate the safety of glaucoma drugs in pregnancy women since not many pregnant women want to sign up for drug studies. For this reason, the data regarding drug safety comes from animal studies. However, the data from animal studies may not apply to human patients, and these studies use much larger doses of medication than the drop-size dose you use everyday. Your optometrist may recommend switching to a glaucoma medication that is thought to be lower risk based on the currently available information.
Since glaucoma can cause blindness, not treating your glaucoma isn't a realistic option, so if you're not comfortable taking your medications, you'll need to have surgery. This surgery, called laser trabulectomy, creates small holes in your eye to let your intraocular fluids drain more easily and reduce the pressure. It's not a permanent solution, so you'll need to start using your eye drops again after your baby is born.
Will your baby have glaucoma?
Babies with a family history of glaucoma can be born with the disease or develop it within their first years of life. Fortunately, this is very rare. Childhood glaucoma only occurs in 1 out of every 10,000 births, and only 10% of those cases have a hereditary cause. Since the risk is small, try not to worry about it right now.
Once your baby is born, have their intraocular pressure checked to make sure its normal. As you've experienced, this test is quick and painless. As your child gets older, make sure to take them to the optometrist regularly to make sure that their intraocular pressure is still within normal levels. Glaucoma can be treated as long as its caught early, so as long as your child gets these regular screenings, there's not much to worry about.
If you're a glaucoma sufferer who recently became pregnant, talk to your eye doctor about any concerns you may have.