According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over one-third of Americans (36.5 percent) are obese. Obesity is not just a problem that is isolated to the United States, however. It is now a worldwide health problem, and it is associated with increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. It is also linked to increased intraocular pressure (IOP).
A study by the Journal of Glaucoma has indicated that weight loss could help in lowering IOP. This is important because increased IOP can lead to glaucoma, a family of diseases that is characterized by elevated IOP that results in optic nerve damage. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of vision loss today, and it can develop to an advanced stage without pain or symptoms.
One of the more recent treatments for obesity is bariatric surgery, a procedure on the stomach and intestines that is designed to induce weight loss. In this particular study, the researchers wanted to know how bariatric surgery would impact IOP. The team examined 25 morbidly obese individuals scheduled for bariatric surgery and 25 age and gender-matched individuals with average weight controls. Eye pressure measurements were taken in seven different positions including seated, sitting with head straight, head flexed, head extended, and four supine positions. The second part of the study followed the same obese group 1 to 2 years after bariatric surgery to find out whether the procedure helped lower IOP.
The study found that the average IOP in the obese group of participants was significantly higher than the control group in each position. After bariatric surgery, the average IOP dropped in every position except for one. Although further research needs to be done to solidify the connection between body weight and IOP, there was a clear linear regression in IOP as body weight decreased. The researchers concluded that “…it may be worthwhile to recommend weight loss in overweight glaucoma patients, as IOP remains the only modifiable risk factor” (Source: Healio).
It is important to note that, although the authors did not study glaucoma patients, it seems reasonable to say that people who suffer from glaucoma will benefit from maintaining a healthy weight and BMI. Weight loss certainly reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease, which benefits the eyes and the entire body in many ways. Talk to your ophthalmologist if you have questions about how your weight may be affecting your eyesight. To find an eye care specialist in your area, use our physician locator tool.