Being very overweight or obese is associated with many health risks. Among these risks are several eye conditions and other diseases which lead to eye problems.
What Does Obesity Mean?
To understand your risks, you must understand the terminology around obesity and weight.
Based on the body mass index (BMI), there are four categories of weight: underweight, healthy weight, overweight, and obese.
Obesity is defined of a BMI of greater than 30. This is the highest risk category for complications due to weight.
Obesity and Eye Conditions
Obesity puts you at much higher risk for eye conditions including cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration.
These conditions are affected by the change in the body’s makeup when there is excess fat from being overweight.
While there is no guarantee that obesity will lead to any of these conditions, there is a strong correlation between obesity and an increased likelihood of developing any or all of these conditions.
Cataracts can be removed using surgery, but both glaucoma and macular degeneration are chronic diseases which have no cure.
Obesity and Conditions that Can Affect Your Eye Health
Obesity can lead to many conditions which do not directly affect the eyes but can indirectly lead to eye problems.
Among these conditions are diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and hypothyroidism.
Diabetes, specifically, diabetic retinopathy, is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in the United States. Obesity can drastically increase the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.
High blood pressure is one of the most commonly diagnosed vascular conditions in the world. While it is common in the general population, it is much more prevalent in those with obesity.
High blood pressure can result in damage to retinal blood vessels in the eye. This can cause bleeding and death of the retinal tissue.
Sleep apnea is almost always associated with obesity or elevated weight. The condition leads to snoring, trouble sleeping, and other systemic symptoms.
A common sign of sleep apnea is floppy eyelid syndrome. This condition can cause dry eyes and lead to corneal damage.
Thyroid problems can be exacerbated by obesity, specifically hypothyroidism which can cause weight gain itself. These problems may persist throughout life and require constant treatment or monitoring.
Thyroid disease can affect the eyes by causing bulging eyes, restricted movement, and damage to the optic nerve.
Medications are readily prescribed for all of these conditions, but the medications themselves are not without side effects.
All treatment options for these conditions include consideration for weight. This may include the primary treatment being diet changes and exercises.
How to Manage Obesity
Obesity is not a condition that can be cured in a single session with a surgery or medication. Even with surgical or medication intervention, the main component of treating obesity is lifestyle changes.
Reducing the number of calories consumed in a day is paramount to effectively managing obesity.
Additionally, increasing the amount of physical activity done daily or routinely throughout the week can reduce the amount of fat buildup in the body.
While these changes can seem daunting, it is important to remember you are not alone in the process! You can seek support from friends and family, consult a dietician, and can always discuss any concerns with your optometrist!