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Slightly in advance of November, which is American Diabetes Month, we at Lesslie Vision Care want to talk about obesity and how it can affect the eye in various ways. According to the US Assistant Surgeon General, obesity is the fastest growing epidemic in the United States. This is illustrated by the fact that the prevalence of obesity in the United States has increased 74% since 1991. You know that obesity affects systemic health, but have you ever thought about how obesity can affect eye health?

Before we start talking about how obesity affects the eyes, let’s have a brief review. Obesity is defined as excess body fat relative to a lean body mass. This is most commonly measured by calculating one’s BMI (body mass index). This can be done by dividing your weight by height. For adults aged 20 years or more, a BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight, 18.5-24.9 is considered normal, 25-29.9 is considered overweight. Obesity is a major contributor to chronic disease and disability such as Diabetes, which is the most common co-morbidity associated with obesity. It has been reported that 97% of all cases of type 2 diabetes are due to excessive weight.

The unfortunate truth is that where there is diabetes, there can be diabetic eye disease! Obesity itself is a risk factor for the development of diabetic retinopathy (changes to the retinal health due to uncontrolled diabetes). A high BMI and a high waist-to-hip ratio are significant risk factors for the development of diabetic retinopathy.
Not only does obesity increase the risk for diabetic eye disease but obesity also increases the risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration due to changes that occur in the body. Some of the changes include increased oxidative stress, changes in the lipoprotein profile (cholesterol levels) and increased inflammation.

Obesity is also a risk factor for cataract development. In one study, patients whose BMI was 30kg had a 36% higher risk of any type of cataracts compared to those whose BMI was less than 23kg.

Obesity is a scary epidemic. We should all really be doing anything and everything we can to increase the awareness of the complications that obesity can lead to. Hopefully, today we have helped shed some light on how obesity can affect the eye.

If you have any questions, please come and see us here at Lesslie Vision care today!