The Relationship Between Sleep Apnea & Glaucoma

Woman having trouble sleepingIf you suffer from the sleep disorder known as sleep apnea, your vision may be at risk.

A recent study led by Ching-Chun Lin, M.A., from the College of Medical Science and Technology at Taipei Medical University in Taiwan, found that people with obstructive sleep apnea have an increased risk of developing open-angle glaucoma.

Glaucoma is an eye condition in which fluid in the eye does not flow normally, causing damage to the optic nerve and potentially resulting in vision loss.

Do you have glaucoma? Click here to review signs and symptoms.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder in which the airway becomes blocked during sleep making it difficult to breathe. It has long been linked to other health conditions, including serious heart problems, but the idea that OSA may also be linked to glaucoma, though not new, is lesser known.

What’s the connection between glaucoma and sleep apnea?

Researchers analyzed data on more than 6,000 participants—some with OSA and some without—over the course of five years. They found that those with sleep apnea had a 67 percent greater chance of developing glaucoma than people who did not have OSA.

Though it is not entirely clear why sleep apnea may cause glaucoma, some researchers believe the lack of oxygen to the brain (hypoxia) caused by obstructive sleep apnea causes damage to the optic nerve. If there are pauses in your breathing during sleep, your body and brain may be deprived of oxygen for periods of time.

Keeping up with regular eye exams is important for everyone, but especially important for people with underlying health conditions, such as sleep apnea, that may affect vision. The sooner an eye condition is detected and treated, the less damage it will cause.

Do you have sleep apnea?

Many people have sleep apnea and don’t even know it. Do you think you or a loved one might suffer from this condition? Here are a few symptoms to look for:

  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • loud snoring
  • waking abruptly with shortness of breath
  • dry mouth or sore throat
  • morning headache
  • insomnia
  • difficulty paying attention
  • episodes of breathing cessation during sleep observed by another person

If you suffer from any of these symptoms, talk to your physician. You may need to undergo a sleep study to determine if you have sleep apnea.

Both sleep apnea and glaucoma can be treated. If you have not seen your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam in the past year, schedule an appointment today.