Eating Disorders and Their Impact on the Eyes
Eating disorders are very common. An estimated 8 million Americans have an eating disorder of some type. Eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, can lead to serious health problems in addition to the mental anguish that they cause. They can lead to death, serious health conditions and much more. Eating disorders can also impact the eyes and vision. Let’s look at the effect that eating disorders can have on the eyes.
What Are Eating Disorders?
Simply defined an eating disorder is a condition that negatively impacts daily diet. For some this means eating very small portions of food. For others this can mean overeating. Eating disorders can also involve purging of food through vomiting or use of laxatives. These disorders typically start during the teenage years, but can occur at any time during life. Women are affected more commonly than men, but it is not uncommon to see men with eating disorders.
There are many different types of eating disorders, but two of the most common are anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa also known as anorexia and bulimia. Both have different characteristics and manifest themselves in different manners, but do share underlying mental issues. Typically anorexia involves restricting food and diet while bulimia involves vomiting or purging of food as well as binge eating.
How Does Anorexia Impact the Eyes?
In a recent study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology it is suggested that anorexia can cause permanent eye damage. In this study researchers studied the macula in the eyes of 33 women. Of these women 13 had anorexia and 20 were healthy. The women had an average age of 28. Those suffering from anorexia had had the condition for an average of 10 years.
The macula is an important part of the eye found in the center of the retina. It is responsible for central vision and also aids in the way that the eyes process light. In each woman the macula was studied and measured using a variety of testing methods. These tests indicated that there were no differences in the eyes ability to observe fine detail or to the central vision of any of the women in the study. The eyes of both sets of women were functioning normally.
While both sets of women were able to see normally, there were some significant differences in the eye function and composition of the women with anorexia and those without this condition. Analysis indicated that the macula and its accompanying nerve layers were significantly thinner in women with anorexia. They also found that there was less electrical activity in the eyes of those with anorexia which is essential in helping the brain to process visual signals.
This study was only a small study and continued research is needed, but this study does indicate that the eyes can be impacted by a variety of different health conditions. Perhaps future study will bring further light to the impact that anorexia can have on the eyes.
How Does Bulimia Impact the Eyes?
Bulimia can also have an impact on the human eye. One of the main eye related problems associated with bulimia comes from the added pressure that vomiting places on the eye. Vomiting places additional pressure on the blood vessels in the eyes often results in broken blood vessels.
These broken blood vessels are known as conjunctival hemorrhages. These hemorrhages are not painful, but can be easily seen by others as they make the eye appear red. No long lasting vision problems typically result from conjunctival hemorrhages.
Another, more serious and much less common, potential eye problem that can be experienced with bulimia is retinal detachment. Since vomiting can place added strain on the eye it can cause the retina to detach from the eye. This can typically be repaired using surgery.
Eating Disorders and Their Impact on Overall Health
As you can see eating disorders can have a serious impact on the eyes as well as the rest of the body. Parents need to understand the signs and symptoms of eating disorders so that they can help their children to receive treatment as soon as possible. Eating disorders are a serious condition and getting treatment will help those affected to discover the root of their problems and work toward recovery. This is important as treatment can help to prevent death, serious complications and permanent eye damage and vision loss.
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