Maintaining a healthy weight in adolescence reduces the risk of developing Diabetes Type 2 in adulthood. Since a link exists between diabetes and cornea damage, adolescents and young adults with keratoconus who are overweight may be able to avoid diabetes-related damage to their corneas by participating in a weight loss program. Indeed, a large-scale medical research study revealed that certain unhealthy lifestyle factors (including excess weight) were found in 90 percent of women with Diabetes Type 2.
The following describes how two eye complications linked to Diabetes Type 2 can worsen vision (in people with and without keratoconus), as well as the vitamins and nutrients most closely associated with overall eye health.
Body Mass Index (BMI) and Diabetes Type 2 – Understanding the Keratoconus Link
Your weight-to-height ratio determines your Body Mass Index (BMI), and the CDC classifies BMI as follows:
- 18.5 – 24 (within normal range);
- 25 – 29 (within overweight range);
- 30 or higher (clinically obese)
While a BMI of 30 or higher has been strongly linked to Diabetes Type 2, a BMI of 25-29 has been linked to pre-diabetes. Besides retina damage, a complication of diabetes is nerve fiber damage in the cornea (per an article in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science). Since keratoconus is a disorder of the cornea, this diabetes complication can accelerate vision loss in keratoconus-afflicted people.
Relationship of Chronic Dry Eyes to Keratoconus and Cornea Nerve Damage
People with keratoconus often have dry eyes, and people with cornea nerve damage also are more likely have chronic dry eyes. The National Keratoconus Foundation notes that 23 million adults in the US have chronic dry eyes, and that chronic dry eyes can lead to the following:
- Experience of sandy, gritty, or foreign body sensation in eye;
- Pain in eye;
- Light sensitivity;
- Excessive tearing;
- Blurry or interrupted vision
Wearing contact lenses (which are frequently utilized as treatment for mild-to-moderate keratoconus) can be difficult for people with dry eyes.
Antioxidants and Vitamin Intake – Benefit to Eyesight
Besides Vitamin A, there are six nutrients described by the American Optometric Association that contribute generally to eye health. These are:
- Vitamin E (antioxidant) – Good sources: wheat germ oil, nuts, fortified cereals, spinach.
- Vitamin C (antioxidant) – Good sources: citrus fruits, red and green peppers, tomatoes.
- Lutein (antioxidant) – Good sources: green leafy vegetables.
- Zeaxanthin (antioxidant) – Good sources: green leafy vegetables.
- Zinc (plays a role in bringing Vitamin A from the liver to the retina).
- Omega-3 fatty acids (maintain integrity of the nervous system, and important for proper visual development).
An adequate daily intake of Vitamin A is especially important since this vitamin supports the functioning of the conjunctival membranes and the cornea. For this reason, taking a daily multivitamin while dieting for weight loss is often recommended – regardless of whether you have a cornea disorder.
Obesity and Lack of Exercise
Along with consuming an overly-high daily number of calories, a lack of regular exercise can also lead to obesity. This is because aerobic exercise burns calories. However, sensitivity to sunlight or legal blindness due to keratoconus can result in a progressively more sedentary lifestyle.
If you no longer able to jog or take brisk walks outdoors due to poor eyesight resulting from keratoconus, the following are three alternative ways to get daily aerobic exercise:
- Riding an exercycle;
- Utilizing a rowing machine (to work both arms and legs);
- Walking (not running) on a treadmill
Through a combination of diet and exercise, it is possible for most obese adolescents and young adults to lose weight (and thereby avoid developing Diabetes Type 2). Therefore, keeping your BMI within normal range is a good idea to preserve your vision and your overall health. While weight management is not a treatment for keratoconus, it can prevent retina and cornea damage occurring as a consequence of uncontrolled Diabetes Type 2.
The professionals of the Precision Keratoconus Center seek to assist you in finding appropriate treatment for your keratoconus.