A new study has suggested that anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder, causes potentially serious eye damage.
In developed countries, anorexia nervosa affects up to 3% of affluent women. Although the condition also increasingly affects men, around 10 women will be affected for every one man.
Anorexia nervosa is the third most common chronic disease among teenage women, up to one in 10 of whom will die from it.
Researchers analysed the thickness of the macula and its electrical activity in both eyes of 13 women with anorexia nervosa and in 20 healthy women of the same age.
The average age of the women was 28. Those with anorexia had had their condition for an average of 10 years.
The macula lies 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 analysis showed that the macula and the nerve layers feeding it were significantly thinner in the eyes of the women with anorexia nervosa and there was also significantly less firing of the neurotransmitter dopamine (electrical activity) in the eyes of the women with the.
The authors conclude that it is not yet clear whether macular thinning and decreased neurotransmitter activity are the initial stages of progressive blindness or whether these signs will revert back to normal once normal eating patterns are resumed.
The study is published in British Journal of Ophthalmology.