July 31, 2013

Obesity has become an epidemic in the US; it has progressed to the point where it is an acceptable medical diagnosis! Not only can obesity shorten your lifespan, decrease your quality of life, and increase your risk for heart disease, cancer, liver disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and diabetes, it can increase your risk for ocular disorders, including cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, and pseudotumor cerebri, which we’ll focus more acutely on below.

Definitive Diagnosis of obesity can be somewhat difficult; BMI calculators alone are insufficient as they do not make allowances for muscular body weight or skeletal frame. It is important to follow closely with your primary doctor, especially if you are concerned that you are overweight or obese. Losing weight can be difficult, but it is by no means impossible! Reducing simple carbohydrates and sugars, increasing exercise within your capabilities, and adhering to an overall healthy diet can aide in helping you achieve a healthy weight!

Pseudotumor cerebri is an idiopathic increase in your intracranial pressure, giving the symptoms of a tumor, without actual tumor presence. While it can occur in people of any age, weight, or nationality, it is most commonly noted in obese women of childbearing age (obese women under the age of 40 are about 40 times more likely to develop pseudotumor cerebri than the general public). Symptoms include moderate to severe headaches, ringing in the ears (pulsing in time with heartbeat), nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, temporary and brief episodes of blindness (may be unilateral or bilateral), decreased peripheral vision, double vision, flashes of light, and neck, back, and/or shoulder pain. While pseudotumor cerebri is relatively uncommon, it is a serious condition which bears treatment and close monitoring; as many as 10% of affected people will experience progressively worsening visual symptoms which can lead to eventual blindness. This can occur years after initial onset or diagnosis; weight loss is essential for obese or overweight patients with the condition, and regular eye exams are vastly important for the most quality care. Treatments include the use of glaucoma drugs, diuretics, migraine medications, and surgical intervention (often at optic nerve or spine).

As with any treatment, following closely with your primary medical doctor is advised prior to beginning any weight loss treatment. Adhering to an overall healthy diet and including moderate amounts of exercise can be easy and beneficial to just about anyone! While weight loss is no guarantee of ocular or even overall health, prolonged obesity can increase your risk for complications in the eyes and the rest of your body. If you’re worried about your weight, or would like more information on how to control your weight in a healthy manner, speak to your primary doctor.