Fergus Falls Optometric Center, Ltd.
"Family Eyecare from the Eyecare Family."
Dr. Mark D. Olmsted and Dr. Christine A. Olmsted
117 E. Lincoln Ave.
Fergus Falls, MN 56537
Appointments: 218-736-7555

Eye Disease in Obesity - 29 Jan 2006

Eye Disease in Obesity
29, Jan 2006

Eye Disease in ObesityAmericans are getting bigger. This is no secret and neither is the fact that obesity increases our risk for diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Recent information also ties being overweight with certain eye conditions beyond those associated diabetes and hypertension, both of which can affect retinal blood vessels and their integrity in the form of retinopathy. One way of measuring obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI). To calculate this number, use your weight in pounds and your height in inches in the following formula: [Weight (lbs.) divided by the square of Height (in.). Multiply this number by 703.] Normal weight has a BMI between 18.5 and 24.9. Overweight is 25 to 29.9. Obesity is 30 to 34.9.

Moderate obesity is 35 to 39.9. Extreme obesity is over 40. I’ll calculate mine now…. let’s see 235lbs. divided by 71 in. x 71 in. (5041) times 703 equals…uh…is…uh…DOH!!!!!!! Never mind…enough about me. I know I have some work to do…. People with BMIs on the wrong side of the border are more at risk for two types of cataracts (opaque areas in the eye’s lens), which often need surgical attention, cortical and posterior subcapsular (PSC). PSC tends to be a faster progressing in the drop in visual acuity due to their position at a very crucial focusing point in the eye. Protruding eyes (exophthalmos) are more likely in the clinically obese. This may also be a symptom of an overactive thyroid (Grave’s disease), so it is important to rule out that possibility.

Women are more prone to pseudotumor cerebri, when overweight. This is a condition where the cerebro-spinal fluid pressure is too high. It is very rare in men. When someone like me looks into a patient’s eyes and notes that both optic nerve heads are swollen, we think of brain tumor or this condition. These patients and those with exopthalmos are referred to their medical doctor for further testing. There appears to be a strong connection between obesity and macular degeneration. The macula is the “bulls eye” of our retina. You are aiming your macula at this newsprint to read this article.

Men with a high BMI have double the risk for the dry form of the disease as opposed to men with a more desirable BMI. It has been accepted for a few years that lutein and zeaxanthin (nutrients in dark green leafy vegetables) are beneficial in maintaining the health of our macula. Studies show that obese individuals have less of these biochemicals in their macula than normal. It is thought that this is because our retina loses a battle with the extra fat cells in the obese for the uptake of these fat-soluble nutrients. Also, it could simply be due to a decreased dietary consumption of spinach, etc. in overweight people. Physical activity tends to decrease the risk of progression of macular degeneration. It also obviously, helps in weight control.

Vitamin supplementation, especially the antioxidants A, E, and C along with zinc appear to help according to the AREDS study. AREDS stands for Age Related Eye Disease Study. There is a new AREDS 2 investigation in the works that is looking at Omega-3 fatty acids combined with lutein as another gun in the arsenal to help slow down macular degeneration. Omega-3s are in deep-sea fish like salmon or some plants such as flax seed. Flaxseed oil and fish oil supplement capsules are widely available. They are said to help in keeping the good cholesterol in better balance with the bad cholesterol, to help in the prevention of cholesterol plaque deposition in our arteries and in the small blood vessels behind the macula. Of course, there are many who also need medication to lower the cholesterol to acceptable levels, so follow your family practioner's advice.

Considering the fact that my latest blood cholesterol results returned with a reading of “Cheese-Whiz”, I know that I must get more exercise than I already do and cut back on the saturated fats. I do take Omega-3 supplements and a good multivitamin with lutein. With macular degeneration in my family, these things all come to mind. I know…I know…”Doctor, heal thyself”…

Dr. Mark D. Olmsted