It would not be an exaggeration to say that our eyes are amazing. They are a fascinating combination of over 2 million intricate parts that play a well-orchestrated central role in helping us navigate the world. In fact, the biological process of seeing requires about half of your brain’s capacity to function properly. All of this is going on in the background as we go about living our lives each day. But what happens to that process when obesity enters the picture? It’s a topic that is little discussed, but very worthy of conversation.
There is a long list of eye diseases and medical conditions with names too technical to list here, but here are a few common eye conditions that show evidence of a link to obesity.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes progressively cloudy, eventually leading to loss of vision. There are different types of cataracts, and the exact cause of them has yet to be discovered, but scientists have seen a connection with obesity. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders found that obesity, defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher, drove an increased risk of developing any type of cataract by 36%.
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by elevated blood sugar levels that damage the tiny blood vessels that provide nourishment to the eyes. As indicated by its name, this occurs in people who are diagnosed with diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, up to 21 percent of patients with type 2 diabetes have retinopathy at the time they are first diagnosed with the condition, and most develop some form of retinopathy over time. In the US, diabetic retinopathy accounts for 12% of all new cases of blindness.
So what’s the link to obesity? It is well documented that obesity is a key contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes. And of the 30 million Americans who suffer from diabetes, 80% suffer from obesity. The two spell trouble for healthy vision.
Retinal Vein Occlusion
Retinal vein occlusion is a condition where veins in the retina (important layers in the eye that help translate messages between the lens and the brain) become blocked and can’t return blood back to heart. This may lead to partial or total loss in vision. Research shows that obesity is a significant risk factor for this eye disease. A study published in the journal Ophthalmology reported that people suffering from obesity have nearly four times increased risk for developing retinal vein occlusion.
The encouraging news is that 80 percent of vision problems are preventable or potentially curable. If you suffer from obesity and have not yet experienced eye trouble, it is crucial that you start taking steps to reduce your weight in order to protect your vision as well as your overall health. If you are already dealing with some form of vision problem, talk to your medical provider about how weight loss may impact your ability to reverse its path. Remember, your eyesight is nothing to take lightly. Keep those 2 million amazing parts working in sync for a lifetime.