Obesity and Vision Problems: A Concerning Relationship

Obesity is a chronic disease that has become a worldwide public health problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2023, more than 1.3 billion adults aged 18 or older were overweight, of which 650 million were obese. Obesity affects people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities, and is associated with a higher risk of developing various diseases, including visual problems.

Relationship between obesity and visual problems:

There is a bidirectional relationship between obesity and visual problems. Obesity can increase the risk of developing visual problems, and visual problems can hinder physical activities that help control weight.

Mechanisms:

The mechanisms by which obesity increases the risk of visual problems are not fully understood, but they are believed to be related to:

  • Inflammation: Obesity produces a state of chronic inflammation in the body, which can damage blood vessels and nerves in the eye.
  • Insulin resistance: Insulin resistance is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, which can cause damage to the retina.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can damage blood vessels in the eye, which can lead to hypertensive retinopathy.Increased intraocular pressure: High intraocular pressure can cause glaucoma, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss.
  • Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Sleep apnea can increase the risk of developing glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.

Visual problems associated with obesity:

Obesity is a significant risk factor for developing various visual problems, some of which have the potential to cause blindness. Among the most common problems are:

  • Diabetic retinopathy: This complication of diabetes affects the blood vessels of the retina, potentially damaging it and causing vision loss, even blindness. It is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults. Risk factors include type 1 and 2 diabetes, duration of diabetes, poor glycemic control, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, and diabetic nephropathy.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): It affects the macula, the central part of the retina, and causes central vision loss, making reading, driving, and other daily activities difficult. It is the leading cause of blindness in people over 65. Risk factors include age, smoking, family history, sun exposure, obesity, and an unhealthy diet.
  • Glaucoma: It damages the optic nerve, which carries visual information from the eye to the brain, causing peripheral vision loss and ultimately blindness. It is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. Risk factors include high intraocular pressure, age, family history, black race, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • Ischemic optic neuropathy: It damages the optic nerve due to lack of blood flow, which can cause sudden vision loss. Risk factors include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and obesity.
  • Pterygium: It is an abnormal growth of the conjunctiva, the membrane covering the white part of the eye. It can cover the cornea and affect vision. The relationship between obesity and pterygium is not entirely clear, but it is believed that chronic inflammation, hormonal changes, and vascular problems associated with obesity can increase the risk of abnormal conjunctival growth, leading to the development of pterygium.
  • Amblyopia: It affects the development of vision in one or both eyes, causing permanent vision loss. Obesity in the mother during pregnancy may increase the risk of amblyopia in the baby. This is believed to be because obesity can affect blood flow to the uterus and placenta, depriving the fetus of oxygen and essential nutrients for visual development

It is important to remember that not all people with obesity will develop visual problems. However, obesity is a significant risk factor for these problems, so it is essential to maintain a healthy weight and undergo regular eye exams to detect and treat any visual problems in time.

Prevention:

The best way to prevent visual problems associated with obesity is to maintain a healthy weight. This can be achieved through a healthy diet and regular exercise.

  • Healthy diet:A healthy diet to prevent obesity and visual problems should include: Plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Lean proteins, such as fish, chicken, and legumes. Healthy fats, such as those found in olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Limiting the consumption of added sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats.
  • Regular exercise: Regular exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and preventing obesity and visual problems. Adults are recommended to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.
  • Early detection: Early detection of visual problems is essential for preventing vision loss. People with obesity are recommended to undergo regular eye exams, even if they have no vision problems.

Treatament:

The treatment of visual problems associated with obesity depends on the type of visual problem. In some cases, weight loss may be necessary to improve vision. In other cases, medications or surgery may be used to treat the visual problem.

Recomendations:

  • Maintain a healthy weight: The ideal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9 kg/m².
  • Engage in regular exercise: At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Limit the consumption of added sugars, saturated fats, and trans fats.
  • Control your blood pressure: The ideal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg.
  • Control your blood sugar level: The ideal fasting blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL.Undergo regular eye exams: At least once a year, or more frequently if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or other risk factors for visual problems.

Conclusion:

Obesity is a significant risk factor for developing visual problems. It is important to maintain a healthy weight, engage in regular exercise, eat a healthy diet, and control blood pressure and blood sugar levels to reduce the risk of developing these problems. If you have obesity, it is essential to undergo regular eye exams to detect and treat any visual problems in a timely manner.