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Does Obesity Impact Eye Health?

Nation-wide awareness about the vast dangers of obesity is at an all-time high, with TV shows like “The Biggest Loser” and health initiatives such as Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign shining a spotlight on the importance of fitness and good nutrition. However, despite the public’s knowledge of obesity’s effects on hypertension, stroke, and diabetes, many are not aware of how it damages eye health and vision.

Increasing evidence shows that people who are clinically obese have an elevated risk of developing serious eye diseases. It is widely known that expanding waistlines place people at a higher risk of getting diabetes, heart disease, and cancer — but researchers say the link between obesity and deteriorating vision is the “risk factor that no one talks about”. Professor Michael Belkin and Dr. Zohar Habot-Wilner, from the Goldschleger Eye Institute at the Sheba Medical Center, found a consistently strong correlation between obesity and the development of four major eye diseases that may cause blindness:

  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy

The researchers said that although the evidence was out there suggesting a link between obesity and these conditions, their study emphasizes the optometric risks of obesity which can help motivate people to shed those extra pounds.

How Obesity Contributes to Eye Disease

A Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 is considered overweight and above 30 is regarded as obese. A high BMI is tied to several chronic systemic health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, among others. Recent research indicates that a handful of ocular diseases can now be added to that list.

Serious eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration are more common in individuals with obesity, as well as floppy eyelid syndrome, retinal vein occlusions, thyroid-related eye diseases, and stroke-related vision loss.

The connection between obesity and these eye diseases is likely due to the increased risk of peripheral artery disease. This occurs when the tiny blood vessels bringing oxygen to parts of your body like the feet, kidneys, and eyes become compromised.

Your eyes are particularly prone to damage from obesity because the blood vessels in the eyes (called arterioles) are easily blocked, since they’re extremely thin and small — as thin as ½ the width of a human hair!

Most people are not aware that obesity may increase the rate of developing cataracts, too. Cataracts result when the focusing lens in the eye becomes cloudy and requires surgery to be replaced. In addition to age, cataract development is associated with obesity, poor nutrition, gout, diabetes and high blood sugar levels, though the exact cause isn’t clear.

A Healthy Lifestyle Can Reduce Your Risk of Ocular Disease

Knowing about the risk of vision loss may give those with a high BMI the extra motivational boost they need to lose weight. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes can reduce the associated risks.

An active lifestyle and a balanced, nutritious diet lower obesity and improve overall physical and eye health. Give your body a boost by incorporating important nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, omega 3, zinc, and lutein, many of which are found in green leafy and dark orange vegetables, as they have been shown to reduce the onset, progression, and severity of certain eye diseases.

We Can Help Keep Your Eyes Healthy in St. Albert

While a healthy diet and regular exercise greatly increase your chances of living a disease-free long life, they alone are not enough to ensure long term healthy eyesight. Regular eye exams with Dr. Sophie Jobin can help prevent or detect the onset of ocular disease, and maintain vision that is clear and comfortable.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding your vision or eye health, don’t hesitate to call Eye Health Centre — we’re here for you.

How to Prevent Diabetic Vision Loss

Eye Complications of Diabetes

It’s true. Diabetics have a higher risk of blindness than those without the disease. That fact coupled with the superior prognosis of early intervention, makes it easy to understand why optometrists and doctors say routine eye care is absolutely essential. Below, we’ll discuss what your eye doctor is looking for during a diabetic eye exam.

As the incidence of diabetes increases, it is important to spread awareness about the risks and proper preventative care for diabetes patients. November is Diabetes Awareness month, so read on!

Diabetics are at greater risk of for a number of eye problems.

Diabetic Retinopathy:

Diabetic retinopathy is the term used for the disorders associated with diabetes that cause progressive damage to the retina. The longer a patient has had diabetes, the more likely it is that he will develop these conditions which can be very serious, vision-threatening complications.

There are two types of retinopathy: nonproliferative and proliferative.

Nonproliferative retinopathy, which is the most common form, is when capillaries at the back of the eye become weakened and may start to leak blood and fluids. Nonproliferative retinopathy, which often has no symptoms, can be characterized as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how many blood vessels are affected and becoming blocked. This type of retinopathy usually doesn’t require treatment and doesn’t cause vision loss, unless the leaking fluid ends up in the macula where the eye focuses – a condition called macular edema. If this happens, vision can be blurred and even lost so preventative treatment is essential.

Proliferative retinopathy is much more severe. This is when so much damage is done to the blood vessels that they begin to close off. New blood vessels begin to grow in the retina as a response to this deterioration. The new and weak vessels can leak blood, impairing vision, or can form scar tissue which can distort the retina or cause a retinal detachment.

Proliferative retinopathy requires urgent referral to an ophthalmologist for treatment. While it usually takes years to develop, some instances of proliferative retinopathy can occur within weeks or months if blood sugars are not well-controlled. Pregnancy can also accelerate proliferative retinopathy in known diabetics. Yet if detected early, treatment can be done successfully.

Like high blood pressure, there are often no warning symptoms until advanced stages of diabetes. It is best to get checked each year by an optometrist. If you experience any changes in your vision such as spots in vision, flashes of light, blurred or double vision (rarely pain), make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately. Treatments do exists for retinopathy and many of them are successful in repairing damage and sometimes even restoring vision.

Cataracts:

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye which blocks light from entering and impairs vision. While cataracts are a fairly common and treatable condition, people with diabetes are 60% more likely to develop the condition and often get them at a younger age. Those with the condition also may experience vision fluctuation which occurs from sugar levels affecting the lens of the eye. Cataracts often progress faster in diabetics as well. In serious cases of cataracts, a surgical procedure is done to remove the natural lens of the eye which can sometimes cause complications in diabetic patients that may already have symptoms of other conditions such as diabetic retinopathy.

Glaucoma:

Glaucoma is a serious condition where pressure builds up in the eye causing damage to the retina and optic nerve and eventually if left untreated, blindness. Diabetics are 40% more likely to develop glaucoma and the risk increases with age and the amount of time the individual has had diabetes. There are treatments for glaucoma including medications and surgery but early detection and treatment are essential to prevent permanent vision loss. Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because vision loss often doesn’t occur until significant damage is done. Therefore, yearly eye exams are essential.

Cornea Alterations:

Diabetics may experience reduced sensitivity in their cornea. This means that contact lens wearers that are diabetics should be more cautious, as they develop higher tolerance if the lens irritates the eyes and may be at greater risk of infection.

Eye Muscle Disturbance:

More advanced diabetes cases can show restriction of eye muscle movement due to nerve palsy.

 

For diabetics, the key to early detection and treatment – and therefore preserving your vision – is to have your eye health monitored on a regular basis. Get your eyes examined every year by an optometrist and if you experience any changes in your vision such as spots, floaters, blurred vision or pain, make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.

What You Should Know about Diabetes and Your Vision

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Diabetes affects people of all ages, races and genders. An estimated 25.8 million Americans or 8.3 percent of the population suffer from the disease, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011. In fact, diabetic eye disease is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults in the North America.

If you or someone you care for has diabetes, here are 6 things you need to know about how it impacts eyes and vision.

  1. What is diabetic eye disease?
    Diabetic eye disease is most commonly associated with diabetic retinopathy, which is characterized by damage to the blood vessels of the retina and can lead to blindness. According to the National Eye Institute, it can also cause premature cataracts and glaucoma.
  2. How does it impact vision?
    In diabetic retinopathy, the small blood vessels that nourish the retina at the back of the eye become weak as a result of fluctuating sugar levels in the bloodstream. This causes bleeding at the back of the eye, reduced circulation and less oxygen and nutrients reaching the retina. As a result, new fragile blood vessels are produced to compensate. However, the abnormal blood vessels can start leaking fluid and small amounts of blood into the retina, causing vision loss. In the worst cases, the retina can scar or detach, causing permanent vision loss.
  3. What are the symptoms?
    At first, someone with diabetic retinopathy may not experience any noticeable symptoms. That is why early detection is crucial and diabetics should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year to screen for diabetic retinopathy. In most cases, by the time you realize something is wrong, the disease is so far advanced that lost vision can’t be restored.In its advanced stage symptoms may include:

    • Fluctuating vision
    • Eye floaters and spots
    • The development of a shadow in your field of view
    • Blurry vision, or double vision
  4. Who is at risk?
    Anyone who has diabetes type 1 or type 2 has a greater chance of developing vision loss. Even gestational diabetes and pre-diabetes increase the risk of diabetic eye disease. An estimated 40 to 45 percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes have some degree of diabetic retinopathy, according to the NEI. That is why anyone with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely it is to have an effect on your vision.Race and family history can also put you at risk for the disease. If you are of Hispanic, African, Asian, Pacific Island, or Native American descent, you are more likely to develop diabetes. Lifestyle – including your weight, diet and how active you are – also plays a role in the development and management of diabetes, as well as its effect on the eyes.
  5. How is diabetic eye disease treated?
    There are effective medical treatments, including injections into the eye to prevent leaking blood vessels and laser treatment to prevent and reduce vision loss as a result of diabetes, but early detection and treatment are vital!
  6. What steps can I take to reduce diabetes related vision loss?
    Make sure to keep your blood sugar levels under control and monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol. Speak to your doctor about what your target goals should be to prevent further deterioration. Often, when diabetes causes damage to the eyes, it is also an indication of the damage occurring in the kidneys and other areas in the body with small nerves and blood vessels, too. Exercise, maintain a healthy diet and keep your cholesterol levels low. Schedule eye exams yearly or as often as your eye doctor and medical doctor advise.

Knowing the risks and symptoms of diabetic retinopathy is not enough. If you or a loved one has diabetes, don’t take chances. The only real way to safeguard your vision is by making your eye health a priority.

Take a diabetes risk test.