How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Eyes

How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Eyes

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a breathing disorder that occurs while you sleep.  OSA occurs when the airway becomes partially blocked, causing events such as hypopnea (slow, shallow breathing) or apnea (no breathing). 

While it has been associated with medical conditions such as diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease, what is not as well known is that sleep apnea is associated with certain eye conditions and diseases. In this blog, we review some of these conditions, which should be assessed and treated by a qualified eyecare professional.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) is an eye condition where a person’s upper eyelid is extremely large and floppy. Patients often complain of eye irritation, redness, discharge, blurry vision, and even describe instances when their upper eyelids spontaneously flip upward while they sleep.

FES is one of the most common eye disorders associated with OSA. One study suggests that over 95% of people with FES also have symptoms of OSA.

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is usually caused by fluid accumulating in the front part of the eye, which increases the pressure within the eye and damages the optic nerve. Nearly 60 million people worldwide are affected by this eye disease, which is a leading cause of blindness among people over the age of 60.

Glaucoma is usually caused by fluid accumulating in the front part of the eye, which increases the pressure within the eye and damages the optic nerve. Nearly 60 million people worldwide are affected by this eye disease, which is a leading cause of blindness among people over the age of 60. 

Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. Although more research is needed in this area, this study suggests that individuals diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma within five years of being diagnosed than those who do not have the condition.

Dry Eye

CPAP therapy is one of the most common treatments for OSA. Although CPAP machines are beneficial, they may have an impact on certain eye conditions, including Dry Eye Syndrome.

CPAP machines have water compartments to prevent the emission of dry air, but they still leak air from the vents and sides. When air goes beyond the eyelids, it can cause an increase in ocular dryness and create or exacerbate symptoms of dry eye. This air, which contains bacteria from the nose and mouth, may also cause bacterial conjunctivitis when blown across the eyes.

How is Sleep Apnea Treated?

For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, eliminating smoking, or losing weight. For more advanced cases, there are special pillows and other devices that can prevent you from lying on your back while sleeping, which can aggravate obstructive sleep apnea. The most common treatment for OSA is a machine that helps you breathe while you sleep, such as a CPAP, VPAP, or APAP machine.

Concerned About Your Vision? See Your Eye Doctor.

Regular eye exams are important in detecting eye disorders and preventing vision loss. Your eye doctor can help you with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your eye issues and sleep disorders. If they diagnose any eye disorders that may be related to sleep apnea, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist for further testing. 

At Uptown Eye Specialists, we offer a full spectrum of treatments for ocular disorders, including those associated with obstructive sleep apnea. To learn more, please call (416) 292-0330 or contact us online.

Please reschedule your appointment if within the last 14 days you or a household member has travelled outside of Canada, have experienced flu-like symptoms, been in contact with a suspected, probable or confirmed case of COVID-19, been diagnosed with COVID-19 or waiting for a lab test for COVID-19.
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