Experts have told us that chronic loss of sleep can increase risk of heart disease, weight gain, poor performance, diabetes and other serious conditions. Well a new study in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings suggests several associations between sleep disorders and eye health.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea, a disease that affects over 12 million people in the US. OSA is a risk factor for developing hypertension or high blood pressure. High blood pressure can negatively impact a person's vascular system (in addition to putting a person at higher risk of heart disease). Well the vascular changes caused by hypertension can also affect the eye's vascular system - a rather fragile system at best, since many of the vessels are quite small. Those vascular changes could cause:
Floppy eyelid syndrome - they eyelid actually everts to inside out and can have excessive watering, stickiness, discomfort and even blurred vision. It's not serious but it could signal that OSA is ongoing.
Glaucoma - This is the second most common cause of blindness and the most common cause of irreversible blindness. OSA is associated with both kinds of glaucoma and the more frequent the episodes of apnea, the more severe the glaucoma.
NAION - non-arteritic ischemic optic neuropathy - which can result in the painless loss of vision in one eye. It can also cause irreversible vision loss.
Papilledema - Swelling of the optic nerve in both eyes. It can lead to progressively worsening vsion and in some cases, blindness.
So if the doctor diagnoses OSA - he should look for these eye abnormalities. If the doctor sees one of these visual abnormalities, he should do a sleep work up and ask about sleep and snoring. And every doctor who treats patients for OSA should make a regular eye exam by an opthalmologist part of the treatment plan, even in the absence of obvious eye disease.
Published On: November 17, 2008