Obesity can lead to blindness
Daily Times Monitor
Overweight and obese people should be aware that their unhealthy lifestyle could put their eyesight at risk, scientists say.
It is common knowledge that expanding waistlines are linked to conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But research shows that obesity is also linked to eye problems, which could lead to loss of eyesight.
Two Israeli ophthalmologists are now warning that the prospect of eye disease should also be a powerful incentive to lose weight. Professor Michael Belkin and Dr Zohar Habot-Wilner, from the Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Centre, reviewed more than 20 studies involving thousands of patients worldwide.
They said they found a consistently strong link between obesity and the occurrence and development of four major eye diseases that cause blindness - age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Prof Belkin, a professor of ophthalmology at Tel Aviv University, said “The purpose behind this review was to acquaint physicians and laypeople with the dangers of being overweight, and its ophthalmologic disadvantages. “All this existing research had never been pulled together in a comprehensive way.”
All common eye diseases can affect sight to some extent, with most sufferers experiencing deterioration over time.
Researchers said that although there was evidence out there suggesting a link between obesity and these conditions, these facts were not widely known.
Prof Belkin said that people with who have a high Body Mass Index (BMI) and are clinically obese, run an increased risk of eye disease. These diseases are also more likely to progress more quickly in obese people. Researchers said that in some cases, the reason for the link between obesity and the diseases was clear. For example, since glaucoma, diabetes and AMD all affect the vascular system and excess weight is known to create pulmonary problems, the blood vessels in the eye are affected and sight deteriorates. But the link between weight and cataracts is less clear. “Nobody has the faintest idea why cataracts are affected since it is a disease of the lens of the eye,” Prof Belkin said.
Dr Habot-Wilner said it was likely that the link had something to do with the fact that obese people face a greater chance of developing gout - a disease in which the development of cataracts is more common. But she stressed that in their study, they wanted to raise awareness of the risks of sight problems linked to obesity, rather than why these conditions occur more often and cause more damage in obese people. “The message we want to send is that obesity can cause not just cancer and hypertension but also ocular disease.