Overweight people risk going blind say doctors
‘In the midst of an epidemic’
SCOTLAND’S obesity epidemic is endangering the eyesight of young people, scientists have warned.
The nation’s expanding waistline has fuelled a dramatic rise in incidents of a serious vision disorder that can cause blindness.
Idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) is triggered by high blood pressure in the brain – damaging nerves that control sight.
A study in Scotland, where twothirds of adults are overweight or obese, found rates of the condition are up to six times higher than previously feared.
All the patients diagnosed by NHS Fife were either obese or overweight – with all but one female.
The disease typically affects young overweight women.
Project leader Dr Andrew Blaikie, a senior lecturer in the School of Medicine at the University of St Andrews, said: ‘Scotland has one of the worst records for obesity in the developed world.
‘We are in the midst of an epidemic and if this continues, we will see IIH becoming more common, increasing the risk of a small but significant number of young people losing vision.’
Piling on the pounds is known to trigger diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But concerns are growing about the link between expanding waistlines and failing eyesight.
Previous research has connected obesity to four major eye diseases that cause blindness – age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
Now IIH can be added to the list. Headaches are the most common symptom, while a small number of patients go on to suffer irreversible sight loss.
The 12-month study, published in the Scottish Medical Journal, found more than threequarters were clinically obese, with the rest being overweight.
No one of normal health weight presented with the condition, with all affected being female except one.
Ophthalmology registrar Dr Colin Goudie, of the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, Fife, who conducted the research, said: ‘We found the incidence of IIH in Fife was between two and six times higher than previously reported from other studies performed in similarly developed nations.’
Extrapolated to the population, this gives an incidence of 3.56 per 100,000 individuals, dwarfing previous worldwide estimates that range from 0.03 to 2.2.
Eye experts say the public is generally unaware obesity can cause a number of severe eye diseases that have the potential to lead to blindness.