The eyes are two of the most important organs that need caring. But often, people neglect their eyes, ignore routine checkups, and regular care such as washing, staying away from electronic gadgets, etc. The other thing threatening the health of the eyes is obesity. According to Dr Neeraj Sanduja, MBBS, MS, ophthalmologist, and eye surgeon, the primary impact obesity has on the body is the increased risk of peripheral artery disease and diabetes, and when it comes to the eyes, obesity can cause serious “sight-threatening retinal diseases”.
“These diseases develop when the tiny blood vessels in the eyes become weak and can no longer supply oxygen and other essential nutrients to the ocular region,” he says, adding that when the eyes are deprived of oxygen and nutrients, a variety of eye conditions can develop, including:
* Diabetic retinopathy
* Stroke-related vision loss
* Age-related macular degeneration
To understand how obesity impacts the eyes, one needs to know about what comprises a healthy weight. Dr Sanduja says in order to determine if you have a healthy weight for your height and age, your doctor will calculate your body mass index (BMI).
A BMI score is calculated on the basis of tissue mass (muscle, fat, and bone) and height, and is measured as kg/m2. BMI scores are generally interpreted as follows:
– Underweight: under 18.5 kg/m2
– Normal weight: 18.6 to 24.9 kg/m2
– Overweight: 25 to 29.9 kg/m2
– Obese: over 30 kg/m2
How does obesity impact the eyes?
“A body mass index (BMI) of 25-30 is considered overweight and any BMI over 30 is considered obese. Recent studies indicate a handful of ocular diseases can now be added to the list of medical conditions associated with an elevated BMI,” says the doctor, adding that diabetic retinopathy, floppy eyelid syndrome, retinal vein occlusions, stroke-related vision loss, and age-related macular degeneration are all risk factors of obesity.
According to the doctor, obesity is also a risk factor for developing cataracts (the clouding of the eye’s natural lens). Poor nutrition or high blood sugar levels — commonly found in people with obesity — may contribute to the cloudiness, he states.
“Although obesity may contribute to cataract formation, losing weight may not reduce the risk of developing them, because cataracts are also a common consequence of aging, whatever one’s weight.”
Dr Sanduja explains that morbid obesity — associated with higher inner eye pressure, which may increase one’s risk of glaucoma and glaucomatous optic neuropathy (leading causes of vision loss) — is defined as having a BMI of 40 or above, or 35 and above with conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes.
What is the way out?
“Stay active, healthy, and have regular eye exams,” says the expert. He explains that an active lifestyle and a nutritious diet can help you maintain a healthy weight and improve overall physical and eye health.
“Include vitamins C and E, zeaxanthin, omega-3, zinc, and lutein into your diet, as they may help delay or prevent certain eye diseases. It is also crucial to have regular eye exams,” he concludes.