Obesity and your eyesight
30.8 per cent of the adult population in Lincolnshire overall is obese. Do we understand the affect that obesity is having on our eyes?
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD or AMD) – where degeneration of the macula (the central part of the retina) occurs that leads to loss of central vision.
Cataracts – a painless clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataracts generally develop over a long period of time, causing eyesight to gradually get worse.
Glaucoma – a disease of the eye marked by increased pressure within the eyeball that can result in damage to the optic disk and gradual loss of vision.
Carrying excess weight causes pulmonary problems which can lead to irrevocable damage to the delicate blood vessels in the eye. A BMI of 30 or more doubles your risk of age-related macular degeneration and significantly increases your chances of developing cataracts or glaucoma.
Cataract and AMD are both related to nutrition and to the environment, with many factors in common including poor diet, exposure to sunshine and smoking. Poor health commonly relates to lifestyle and many aspects of poor health, such as poor health education, poor nutrition, smoking, cardiovascular disease, renal disease, and obesity. All these factors predispose to cataract. A number of factors may act together to increase the risk. The environmental factor associated with cataract is exposure to sunshine.
Vitamins, particularly A (beta carotene), C and E are shown to be protective to the macula and to the lens. The carotenoids and the essential fatty acid, Omega 3, have joined the vitamins as protective to the macula against AMD and to the lens against cataract. Good sources of vitamin A include cheese, eggs, and oily fish, such as mackerel, milk, fortified low-fat spreads and yoghurt. Liver is a particularly rich source of vitamin A. Vitamin C is found in a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Good sources include peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, oranges and kiwi fruit. Vitamin E is found in a wide variety of foods. The richest sources are plant oils such as soya, corn and olive oil. Other good sources include nuts and seeds, wheat germ, found in cereals and cereal products. The main food sources of beta-carotene are yellow and green (leafy) vegetables, such as spinach, carrots and red peppers, yellow fruit such as mango, melon and apricots. Oily fish contains a type of fatty acid called omega-3. Omega-3 can help lower your cholesterol levels. Good sources of omega-3 include herrings, sardines, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna.
The risk of obese children losing their sight later in life is very real given that more than 70 per cent of obese children and more than 85 per cent of obese adolescents become obese adults.
The National Eye Week ‘See the benefit’ poll found that obese people were the group least likely to visit their optician, with those with a BMI in excess of 25 most likely to believe their eyes were in a state of ‘good’ or ‘very good’ health. Research has revealed cost, or the issue of perceived cost, affected whether people take regular sight tests, with 75 per cent admitting to putting them off because of the price of the exam and expense of correction. Of these, two thirds are women, often the carers in the family.
People are unaware whether they are entitled to an NHS sight test. You qualify for a free NHS-funded sight test if:
- you’re under 16
- you’re under 19 and in full-time education
- you’re 60 or over
- you’re registered as blind or partially sighted
- you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or glaucoma
- you’re 40 or over, and your mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter has been diagnosed with glaucoma
- you’ve been advised by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) that you’re at risk of glaucoma
- you’re a prisoner on leave from prison
- you’re eligible for an NHS complex lens voucher – your optometrist (optician) can advise you about your entitlement
You’re also entitled to a free NHS sight test if you:
- receive Income Support
- receive Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance (not Contribution-based)
- receive Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
- receive Income-based Employment and Support Allowance (not Contribution-based)
- are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate
- are named on a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2)
If you’re named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3), you may get some help towards the cost of your sight test.
If you are unsure whether you are entitled to an NHS contact us. At Clear View Opticians we welcome all NHS and private patients.