Thursday, June 4, 2009

Does this outfit make my eyes look fat?

So for this post, I thought I'd talk a bit about how our weight can affect the health of our eyes. I actually have a Continuing Education test to turn in about "The Eyes and Obesity," so perfect timing!

So, being fat can be bad for your eyes? Really? ABSOLUTELY!
Here are some of the many ocular conditions associated with obesity or poor nutrition:
1. Hypertensive Retinopathy
2. Diabetic Retinopathy
3. Pseudotumor Cerebri
4. Macular Degeneration
5. Floppy Eyelid Syndrome
We all know about diabetes and high blood pressure, so I'm going to save those two big topics for another time. And macular degeneration deserves a separate topic too. Let's talk about two of the lesser known conditions found more commonly in obese individuals: Pseudotumor Cerebri and Floppy Eyelid Syndrome.
So, what the heck is pseudotumor cerebri? It's a condition often found in overweight women of childbearing age. The optic nerves become swollen, and vision can be affected. These patients come to us with complaints of headaches, blurred vision, and blackouts of vision. Here is a picture of a swollen optic nerve from pseudotumor:

The only way to know if you have pseudotumor is to see your eye doctor. Again, we're cool! If we suspect pseudotumor, we will send you for further testing to confirm. This condition is much less common in women who are not overweight, so another reason to get fit. Also, part of the treatment for this condition is weight loss, and losing weight can often make the condition go away completely. So get on that treadmill, ladies!

The next one, floppy eyelid syndrome kind of has a funny name, huh? This one is more common in overweight men, usually middle aged guys. These guys can usually be seen on the beach in a speedo sporting their beer belly. Gross!

So what happens if you have floppy eyelid syndrome? Nothing that makes you very attractive... your eyes become red and inflammed, and your eyelids are so loose that they rub up against your pillow at night and cause irritation. Most of these guys also have sleep apnea. Not fun!

Sometimes it is hard to separate what is good to eat and what is bad to eat. There are diet plans that cut out fat, others that cut carbs, others that focus on sugar intake... the diet industry is HUGE. So why are Americans still gaining weight? In the CE lecture on obesity, we learned some startling things... Americans are heavier than ever... Children are getting diabetes at much younger ages than before... lots of startling and upsetting facts that signal to me that we Americans need to make some lifestyle changes. With a healthy diet and exercise program, hopefully we can improve our lives and keep our eyes healthy.

A good place to start is to write down what you eat and how much you exercise, and be honest. Seeing the amount and types of food you consume written down can be very eye-opening (no pun intended... okay maybe a little pun intended). If you consume fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight. Losing weight can come with physical health benefits as well as mental ones... don't we feel our best mentally when our bodies are healthy? So take control of your life, get active, and eat something good for you... you'll be thankful that you did!