Eye Health

28 October 2010

Anorexia may cause eye damage

It's unclear whether macular damage will progress to blindness, researchers say.


It's unclear whether macular damage will progress to blindness, researchers say.

People with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa may be at risk for potentially serious eye damage, says a small new study from Greece.

This damage can occur in the macula, which is located near the centre of the retina at the back of the eye and is responsible for fine detailed central vision and the processing of light.

The study

In this study, researchers at the University of Athens compared the thickness of the macula and its electrical activity in the eyes of 13 women who'd had anorexia nervosa for an average of 10 years and 20 healthy women without anorexia who served as controls. The average age of the women was 28.

When compared to the healthy women, those with anorexia nervosa had no obvious visual problems and their eyes were working normally. However, the macula and the nerve layers feeding it (retinal nerve fibres) were much thinner in the eyes of the women with anorexia nervosa.

Less firing in their eyes

Their eyes also showed significantly less firing of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which plays an important role in the brain's ability to process visual images.

The researchers also found differences between women with certain patterns of anorexia nervosa. The fovea - a part of the macula that is rich in light-sensitive cones (photoreceptors) - was thinner in women who binged and purged than in those who only severely restricted their calorie consumption.

Further research is needed to determine if these changes in the eyes are the initial stages of progressive blindness or whether the eyes would return to normal if a patient with anorexia nervosa resumed regular eating habits, said the University of Athens team. (HealthDay News/ October 2010)

Read more:
Sight of sore eyes
Anorexia nervosa

Complete our Health of the Nation Survey and stand a chance to win a scooter!


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert


Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg and is currently practising at Tygerberg Academic Hospital in Cape Town. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules