OBESITY is putting young Scots at risk of going blind, researchers have said.

The crisis has been blamed for unusually high rates of a blood pressure condition which typically affects overweight young women.

Researchers found that levels of Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension (IIH) in Fife were two to six times higher than would be expected, compared with similar developed nations.

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Headaches are the most common symptom of the condition and are caused by high pressure within the brain which can damage the optic nerves. In around 10-15% of patients, IIH leads to irreversible sight loss.

Scientists from the University of St Andrews collected data on all patients who were newly diagnosed with IIH within the ophthalmology department in NHS Fife over a 12 month period, from August 2013 to July 2014.

A total of 13 patients were diagnosed with the condition, translating to an incidence of 3.56 cases per 100,000 people in Fife.

Previous estimates of the annual incidence of IIH worldwide vary from 0.03 to 2.2 per 100,000.

All patients in the Fife study except one were female, and all were overweight. The average body mass index was 36 - clinically obese.

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Headache was the most common presenting symptom among the patients, but one patient also complained of visual symptoms.

Three patients presented with no symptoms but were found to have swollen optic discs during a routine sight test.

Dr Colin Goudie, an Ophthalmology Registrar at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh, who conducted the research, said: “The incidence of IIH in Fife was significantly higher than previous estimates and we believe this is due to the high levels of obesity in the region.

"We found that the incidence of IIH in Fife was between two and six times higher than previously reported from other studies performed in similarly developed nations.”

In 2017, 65% of the adult population in Scotland were recorded as being overweight - measured as a BMI in excess of 25 - with with 29% being clinically obese. Of the patients in the Fife study, more than three-quarters were clinically obese and all the rest were overweight.

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Dr Andrew Blaikie, Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine at the University of St Andrews and Consultant Ophthalmologist with NHS Fife, who oversaw the project said:

“Scotland has one of the worst records for obesity in the developed world and the prevalence of obesity in Fife is higher than the Scottish average.

"We are in the midst of an obesity epidemic and if this continues we will see IIH becoming more common, increasing the risk of a small but significant number of young people losing vision.”

He added: “As being overweight is the cause of the disease the primary treatment is to lose weight and achieve a normal BMI.

"This can be augmented with medicines and sometimes surgery to prevent any long-term damage to sight and improve symptoms of headache.

“However, a group of patients exist who can still develop rapidly progressive and permanent vision loss despite prompt treatment.”