Over­weight peo­ple risk go­ing blind say doc­tors

Scottish Daily Mail - - Weekender - By Mark Waghorn

‘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.

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