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Does Obesity Impact Eye Health?

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 Fort Worth

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. Miller 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 Eagle Mountain Family Eye Care — we’re here for you. 

3 Ways Diabetes Can Affect Your Vision and Eyes

Did you know that people with diabetes are 20 times more likely to get eye diseases than those without it? There are three major eye conditions that diabetics are at risk for developing: cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. To prevent these sight-threatening diseases, it’s important to control your blood sugar level and have your eyes checked at least once a year by an eye doctor. 

But First, What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease that is associated with high blood glucose levels. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps our cells get energy from the sugars we eat. Diabetes develops when the body doesn’t produce or respond to insulin effectively, leaving too much sugar in the blood stream instead. Over time, diabetes can lead to potentially irreversible ocular damage and poor eyesight. However, by taking care of your blood sugar levels and your eyes, you can prevent vision loss.

Annual eye exams are recommended for everyone, but routine screenings are even more important for diabetics. Eye doctors may send diabetic eye health reports to a patient’s primary care physician or internist to adjust medication as needed to prevent complications.

What’s the Link Between Vision and Diabetes? 

Blurred vision or fluctuating eyesight clarity is often one of the first noticeable signs that diabetes has begun to affect your eyes. Sometimes, fluid leaking into the eye causes the lens to swell and change shape. This, in turn, makes it difficult for the eyes to focus, resulting in fuzzy vision. Such symptoms can indicate that an eye disease is developing, or may simply be due to imbalanced blood sugar levels which can be rectified by getting your blood sugar back to healthy levels. 

If you start to notice blurry vision, make an appointment with Dr. Miller as soon as possible.

The 3 Ways Diabetes Impacts Vision 

Cataracts

While cataracts are extremely common and a part of the natural aging process, those with diabetes tend to develop cataracts earlier in life. Characterized by a clouding or fogging of the lens within the eye, cataracts impede light from entering the eye, causing blurred vision and glares. The best treatment is cataract surgery, which is very safe and effective. 

Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases characterized by optic nerve damage. Since it tends to impact peripheral vision first, glaucoma often goes unnoticed until significant damage has occurred. However, routine glaucoma screenings can detect warning signs; early treatment can prevent disease progression and vision loss. 

Although there is no true cure for glaucoma, most glaucoma patients successfully manage it with special eye drops, medication, and on occasion, laser treatment or other surgery. The earlier glaucoma is diagnosed and managed, the better the outcome.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the small blood vessels on your retina (capillaries) become weakened and then balloon (microaneurysm) due to poorly controlled blood sugar levels. The resulting poor blood circulation in the back of the eye causes more abnormal blood vessels to grow, which also bleed or leak fluid, and can lead to scar tissue, retinal detachment and even blindness, over time.

Often there are no symptoms until the advanced stages of diabetic retinopathy, where patients may begin to see spots and missing patches in their vision. Retinopathy can be treated through surgery and eye injections, but the best way to prevent this disease from progressing is to regularly have your eyes screened.

The good news is that diabetic eye disease can often be prevented with early detection, proper management of your diabetes and regular diabetic eye exams. Contact Eagle Mountain Family Eye Care in Fort Worth to set up your eye doctor’s appointment today. 

How Smoking Impacts Vision

Smoking harms nearly every system in your body — including your eyes. 

Though we are all aware of the health effects associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and bad teeth, few know about the negative impact it can have on our vision. 

Smoking and Eye Disease 

Smoking, especially 20 cigarettes or more daily over a long period of time, can adversely impact your vision. Cigarette smoke is made up of compounds that can damage health and have been shown to cause cerebral lesions which affect the area of the brain that processes vision.

More specifically, tobacco addiction increases the risk of developing vision-robbing diseases such as macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, smoke is an irritant that can cause or exacerbate dry eye syndrome. Below we’ll delve a little further into each of these conditions. 

Age-Related Macular Degeneration 

Smokers run a high risk of developing AMD, a condition that severely impairs central vision, making it difficult or impossible to read, drive, recognize faces and colors, and leads to permanent vision loss in those aged 65 or older. Fortunately, the risk can be dramatically diminished by putting an end to tobacco smoking — even if later in life. 

Cataracts

Heavy smokers double their risk of developing cataracts, the leading cause of blindness. Cataracts are characterized by clouded, blurred or double vision, photophobia, and reduced night vision. However, cataract surgery is common and replaces the clouded lens with an artificial intraocular lens. 

Uveitis

Uveitis, the inflammation of the eye’s central layer, is an ocular disease that can lead to blindness. This condition damages important structures of the eye, notably the iris and retina, and can lead to cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Smokers have a 2.2 times higher risk of developing uveitis than non-smokers. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Smoking raises one’s risk of developing diabetes by up to 40 percent thereby increasing the risk of retinopathy as well. Diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak blood into the eye, which — in severe cases — can deprive the retina of oxygen and result in blindness.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition characterized by insufficient tears to keep your eye lubricated, or the tears are not composed of the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication. Common symptoms include red, itchy, and gritty eyes.

Heavy smokers, and those exposed to secondhand smoke, not only double their risk of developing dry eye but also exacerbate an existing condition, especially among the contact lens wearers.

Secondhand Smoke and Eye Disease 

Secondhand smoke— which includes the smoke that emanates from the end of a cigarette as well as the smoke exhaled— is nearly as harmful to health and vision. Second-hand smoke places others’ eyesight in danger, particularly in young children and infants. Furthermore, studies indicate that women who smoke during pregnancy put the newborn baby at risk of being born with eye disease or visual impairment that could affect his or her ability to learn.

Stop Smoking to Save Your Vision

The good news is that giving up smoking can have an immediate effect on your health — and it’s never too late to quit! Once the habit is broken, your body will begin to repair itself to prevent vision loss. It can be challenging to quit, as it requires dedication, support, and advanced planning. Dr. Miller and the rest of the staff at Eagle Mountain Family Eye Care in Fort Worth care about your health and will be happy to provide any assistance or resources to help you quit smoking and improve your eye health. Keep in mind that if you smoke, quitting smoking is the most important step you can take to protect your health and vision.

Should I have an Eye Exam When my Blood Sugar is High?

At our Fort Worth eye clinic, we see a lot of patients with diabetes. It’s no surprise, as rates of diabetes are skyrocketing in Texas. However, there are a lot of misconceptions out there. Here are a few common questions and issues that come up.

Does Diabetes Affect My Eyes?

diabetes eye exam fort worth tx

Vision Problems from Diabetic Retinopathy

Yes, yes, and YES. Diabetes and high blood sugar affect your entire body and your eyes are no exception. Diabetes is a very significant risk factor in what’s called diabetic retinopathy, a serious eye condition where the blood vessels near the retina swell, leak, and otherwise grow abnormally. This causes black spots, blurring, and, over time, serious vision loss due to the bleeding this causes within. In fact, diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness in the US today.

Aside from diabetic retinopathy, diabetes significantly raises your risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma―yet another major cause of blindness.

This is why it’s absolutely essential that you see your optometrist regularly if you have diabetes. At our Fort Worth eye center, our optometrists have extensive experience and expertise working with diabetic patients to closely monitor for these conditions, while providing treatment should they occur.

Should I take an Eye Exam if My Blood Sugar is High? Do I Need to Tell My Eye Doctor?

Again, you ABSOLUTELY need to be screened regularly if you routinely have high blood sugar. However, you HAVE TO TELL US! All too often, we have patients coming in to check their vision for a new prescription without telling our optometrist that they have diabetes! When they go to pick up their glasses and their blood sugar has fluctuated―low and behold the prescription is off and the lenses are a write-off!

When your blood sugar is high, the blood vessels constrict and this changes your focus and visual acuity. We simply cannot get an accurate refractive prescription if you don’t tell us that you have diabetes.

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