Obesity putting the young in danger of going blind
OBESITY is putting young Scots at risk of going blind, researchers have said.
The crisis has been blamed for unusually high rates of a blood pressure condition which typically affects overweight young women.
Researchers found that levels of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) in Fife were two to six times higher than would be expected, compared with similar developed nations.
Headaches are the most common symptom of the condition and are caused by high pressure within the brain which can damage the optic nerves. In around 10-15 per cent of patients, IIH leads to irreversible sight loss.
Scientists from the University of St Andrews collected data on all patients who were newly diagnosed with IIH within the ophthalmology department in NHS Fife over a 12-month period, from August 2013 to July 2014.
A total of 13 patients were diagnosed with the condition, translating to an incidence of 3.56 cases per 100,000 people in Fife.
Previous estimates of the annual incidence of IIH worldwide vary from 0.03 to 2.2 per 100,000.
All patients in the Fife study except one were female, and all were overweight. The average body mass index was 36 – clinically obese. Headache was the most common presenting symptom among the patients, but one patient also complained of visual symptoms. Three patients presented with no symptoms but were found to have swollen optic discs during a routine sight test.
Dr Colin Goudie, an ophthalmology registrar at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh, who conducted the research, said: “The incidence of IIH in Fife was significantly higher than previous estimates and we believe this is due to the high levels of obesity in the region. We found that the incidence of IIH in Fife was between two and six times higher than previously reported from other studies performed in similarly developed nations.”
In 2017, 65% of the adult population in Scotland were recorded as being overweight – measured as a BMI in excess of 25 – with with 29% being clinically obese.
Of the patients in the Fife study, more than three-quarters were clinically obese and all the rest were overweight.
Obesity can cause a variety of health problems in the young.