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The ocular effects of pregnancy may be physiological or pathological

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Impact of pregnancy on the ocular health of women tends to be underestimated by both patients and the medical profession, according to a study presented by Daëna Hobeika MD at the 120th annual meeting of the French Society of Ophthalmology.

Pregnancy can induce a large number of effects on vision which may be physiological or pathological, and ocular diseases occurring during pregnancy may be transitional or may persist for a long time. Ocular health problems in pregnant women are often not given due attention by professional health services and most patients are not aware that pregnancy can be associated with progression of previous ocular disease or the appearance of new ocular symptoms.

Dr Hobeika’s study was conducted in the Catholic University of Lille (Lille, France), resulting from collaboration between the Ophthalmology Department directed by Dr Tran and professionals from a network of 10 maternity hospitals in the north of France. A questionnaire was drawn up and distributed to pregnant women over a two-month period. It included social data, term of pregnancy, previous ocular diseases, ocular symptoms occurring during pregnancy and knowledge of ocular problems.

A total of 281 out of 291 questionnaires were included in the final analysis. The mean patient age was 29 years and the mean term of pregnancy was six months. Only 28 pregnant women (10.2 per cent) had previous systemic disease (hypertension, diabetes, lupus, sickle-cell disease).

The main previous ocular problem was refractive errors (45 per cent) which were evolving in 11 per cent of patients during their pregnancy. Serous ocular disease occurred in three patients: one retinal break, one ocular toxoplasmosis, and one case of central serous chorioretinopathy.

The main ocular problem reported was ocular surface disease (22.5 per cent) followed by photophobia (12.1 per cent). Only 16.5 per cent of women were aware that their vision may change or that they might experience ocular problems during pregnancy. Only 10 per cent of the women informed their ophthalmologist of their pregnancy. Since information on ocular conditions was hard to obtain from busy medical professionals (15.6 per cent from staff of maternal hospitals and 15.6 per cent from ophthalmologists), 78.3 per cent of patients said that they used discussion groups and the Internet to understand ocular symptoms occurring in pregnancy.

Summing up, Dr Hobeika said that the study emphasised the need for enhanced communication and
information between patients, ophthalmologists and health professionals to ensure better management of pregnancy and ocular health.


Daëna Hobeika:

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