How Eating Disorders Impact Your Eyesight

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Eating disorders are a very common problem these days. Around 8 million people in the U.S. suffer from some type of eating disorder, but they are rarely familiar with all the consequences their lifestyle can bring. Eating disorders can cause serious mental and physical problems, and in severe cases they can even lead to death.

To make things clear, let’s explain what eating disorders actually are. It is a condition which has a negative influence on a person’s diet. Some eat too little food, while some eat too much. Some, on the other hand, eat as if they didn’t have any eating disorder, but they make themselves vomit after a meal or take laxatives in order to get the foods they ate out of their systems. Both men and women are affected by these disorders, and each and every one of them affects a person’s health. This article will present how each of the most common eating disorders impacts a person’s eyesight.

1. Anorexia

Anorexia is a psychological condition which causes loss of appetite or complete aversion to eating. People suffering from this condition commonly have a distorted body image and an exaggerated fear of gaining weight, so they significantly reduce their food intake in order to lose weight, even if they don’t have any excess.

A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology found that anorexia could cause permanent eye damage. The study included 13 women with anorexia and 20 healthy women, all around 28 years of age, and the researchers found that the macula in the eyes (the part of the eye responsible for central vision and which helps the eye process light) was slightly thinner in women with anorexia, as well as that the electrical activity in the eyes necessary for the brain to be able to process visual signals was significantly decreased. Further research is needed to verify these evidences, but this study shows that anorexia may endanger eyesight and overall eye health.


2. Bulimia

Bulimia is a serious psychiatric condition – an eating disorder in which a person frequently binges and then purges (vomits or takes laxatives in order to make up for their previous behavior). People with bulimia also tend to exercise too much in an attempt to burn off all the excess calories they took in. Bulimia has serious health impacts, and when it comes to the human eye, when vomiting, additional pressure is placed on the eye- its blood vessels, which commonly leads to broken blood vessels, also known as conjunctival hemorrhages. They do not hurt, but they do make the eyes look red. However, no permanent eye damage results from this. On the other hand, there is a less common problem caused by bulimia, and that is retinal detachment. Namely, due to the additional strain that vomiting causes to the eye, the retina may detach from the eye. This is definitely a more serious consequences of this condition, and it can be repaired with surgery.

3. Binge-eating disorder

People with binge-eating disorder are somewhat similar to those with bulimia, with one difference – they don’t usually make themselves vomit or take laxatives. People with this eating disorder are commonly overweight or obese. This is the most common eating disorder in the U.S.

People with binge-eating disorder usually eat lots of sugary and starchy foods, and those foods in large amounts can make eyes more vulnerable to age-related macular degeneration, which is the most common cause of vision loss among Americans, according to an article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2007. Starchy carbohydrates make the blood sugar levels spike quickly, and those spikes can increase the risk of permanent loss of vision. Therefore, it is recommended, if you cannot make yourself stop bingeing, at least binge on foods that are rich in proteins and antioxidants, instead of sugars and fats.

Eating disorders commonly develop during the teen years or young adulthood, and researchers suggest that the risk of developing one of the mentioned disorders depends on genetic, biological, behavioral, psychological and social factors. Eating disorders bring along numerous health risks and can lead to serious diseases if untreated on time. If a person is struggling with an eating disorder for a long time, it could lead to a permanent damage or loss of vision, as well as many other eye-related problems – some more and some less serious.

Parents should understand what the symptoms of eating disorders are, in order to be able to help their children overcome this problem. Eating disorders usually derive from some deeper psychological problems, so proper treatment may be necessary in order to be able to move towards recovery. Treatment is sometimes life-saving, as when eating disorders go into extremes, they could lead to serious complications, permanent eye damage and loss of vision, as well as death in severe cases.