From today we have one more reason to take care of the health of our liver. In fact, fatty liver increases the risk of developing high intraocular pressure, which is the antechamber of glaucoma. In short, a healthy liver also means a healthy eyesight, as emerges from a very recent scientific research published in the journal Nutrients by a Korean team from the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul (Lee et al, Nutrients, Oct 2022).
High intraocular pressure, causes and risks
Intraocular pressure is determined by the balance between the production and drainage of liquids within the eye. This pressure is measured by the ophthalmologist during a specialist visit and under normal conditions it oscillates between 10 and 21 mmHg. When the intraocular pressure exceeds 21 mmHg then we speak of elevated ocular pressure, which is a condition to be treated and controlled. In fact, elevated eye pressure is the main risk factor for the development of glaucoma, which is a disease that can lead to damage to the optic nerve and impaired vision. Studies have observed that several factors contribute to causing elevated intraocular pressure, such as hypertension, diabetes and insulin resistance. The point is that these factors are also associated with another condition, which is fatty liver. Fatty liver, or hepatic steatosis, affects nearly 40% of the population.
Therefore, since fatty liver is so widespread and given the fact that it has the same risk factors as elevated intraocular pressure, one might well wonder whether it can itself be a risk factor for increased pressure in the eye.
Fatty liver and elevated intraocular pressure, here's the link
To answer this question, the scientists drew on the liver and eye health data of 16240 adults, recruited between 2016 and 2020. Well, what emerged is that the condition of fatty liver actually increases the risk of developing elevated intraocular pressure and that the higher the degree of severity of hepatic steatosis, the greater this risk will also be. It has even been observed that fatty liver increases eye pressure more incisively than hypertension. Of the two types of fatty liver, that caused by excess alcohol, or alcoholic steatosis, and that which occurs in the absence of excessive alcohol consumption, or nonalcoholic steatosis, both have been shown to increase the risk of elevated intraocular pressure, although alcoholic steatosis has the greatest effect, especially in the presence of other conditions such as hypertension and diabetes. Scientists speculate that the explanation for this association is to be found in an increase in insulin resistance. In particular, fatty liver increases blood viscosity which in turn increases resistance to insulin, one of the risk factors for elevated intraocular pressure.
Two considerations emerge from this study. The first is that those suffering from fatty liver, especially if it is also related to other conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, should keep their intraocular pressure more carefully controlled. The second is that to prevent eye diseases and glaucoma it is also important to take care of the health of our liver. And we can do this by reducing or eliminating the consumption of alcohol, not smoking, guaranteeing an active lifestyle, a good restful sleep and a varied and balanced diet, which includes hepatoprotective foods such as broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower, green leafy vegetables, legumes, fish, grapes, oranges, oats, nuts, seeds, such as sesame seeds, but also green tea, which have been shown to counteract fatty liver.