Can weight loss drugs lead to blindness? Know more

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, NAION is relatively rare, affecting 2-10 people per one lakh population. Photo: IANS

The weight loss of many international celebrities of late has been attributed to the usage of drugs like Ozempic. However, just as always with such drugs, the result comes with a huge risk factor. A recent research recently said popular weight loss drugs have been linked to an uncommon eye-blinding condition that's been reported, of late. Patients with diabetes or obesity are commonly prescribed weight loss drugs, such as Ozempic or Wegovy, containing the protein semaglutide, which helps manage blood sugar by promoting the production of insulin.
Loss of vision in one eye
A team of researchers, led by those from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital, US, found that patients with obesity who were prescribed these weight loss drugs were over seven times more likely to be diagnosed with NAION, or 'Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy', causing sudden vision loss in one eye. They also found that patients with diabetes who were taking these semaglutide-containing drugs were over four times more likely to get an NAION diagnosis. The findings are published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Ophthalmology.

"This information we did not have before and it should be included in discussions between patients and their doctors, especially if patients have other known optic nerve problems like glaucoma or if there is pre-existing significant visual loss from other causes," lead author Joseph Rizzo, director of the Neuro-Ophthalmology Service at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, said. Rizzo stressed that the increased risk relates to a relatively uncommon disorder and further studies are needed as the researchers do not know why or how the link between taking weight loss drugs and the eye condition exists. The findings should, therefore, "be viewed as being significant but tentative," Rizzo said.

How common is the condition?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, NAION is relatively rare, affecting 2-10 people per one lakh population. The condition is thought to be caused by reduced blood flow to the optic nerve head, leading to permanent vision loss in one eye. In their analysis, the researchers included data from records of more than 17,000 patients at the hospital diagnosed with either diabetes or obesity, who were prescribed semaglutide-containing or other weight loss drugs. "The use of these drugs has exploded throughout industrialised countries and they have provided very significant benefits in many ways, but future discussions between a patient and their physician should include NAION as a potential risk," Rizzo said. 

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