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Does Obesity Impact Eye Health?

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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. Louis

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. Brawley 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 Vision Care Consultants — we’re here for you. 

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VISION CARE CONSULTANTS COVID-19 CDC COMPLIANCE STATEMENT

Eyecare services are currently available for you, your children and family. However, please consult our Google Business page or call us for our current hours of operation. We want to advise you about the procedures and efforts that we are making to address the challenges regarding COVID-19/Coronavirus. (Read more)

Our efforts you can expect at our practice:

  • Staggered appointment times with minimal to no wait times in our reception area. Patients may also check in and wait outside in their cars to be called in for exam.
  • Following guidelines based upon medical evidence and closely monitoring the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
  • Educating our doctors and staff on preventative measures provided by the CDC with daily staff meeting updates.
  • Increasing the frequency and extent of our cleaning practices, such as additional wipe downs of all hard surfaces including the front desk, examination rooms after every exam and additional cleaning for all “patient touch points” (door handles, eyeglasses, counter tops, and other high-touch surfaces).
  • Providing additional resources that are available to patients and employees including hand sanitizers, extra soap and paper towels at all sinks and restrooms.
  • Implementing heightened sanitation and hand-washing procedures for all staff.

OUR PATIENT REQUEST:

  • Only bring scheduled patients to the office (1-Accompanied adult per minor or elderly patient).

  • If you recently traveled to any of the high risk countries within the past 30 days, please, delay & reschedule your appointment for 30 days after you returned from your travel.

  • If you have any flu-like symptoms (fever, chills body aches, & trouble breathing), please, delay your appointment for 30 days.

  • If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, and you arrive at our office, we will kindly ask you to leave & reschedule your appointment

  • Please notify us as soon as possible if you need to reschedule your appointment. This allows us to release your reserved time to another patient.

With appropriate precautions we will together address this challenge and modify behaviors that will make us better prepared to face such challenges in the future. Thank you for your cooperation.

Sincerely,

Dr. Brawley, Dr. Friederich, Dr. Seibel, Dr. Wehner & Staff at Vision Care Consultants