Sleep apnea robs millions of Americans of precious sleep every night—not only that, but it can also lead to a variety of different health problems if left untreated. Among those are issues with eyesight; recent research has revealed a strong connection between sleep apnea and diabetes-related eye problems. Keep reading to learn more about how sleep apnea can potentially cause blindness in some patients.
How Does Sleep Apnea Cause Vision Problems?
Sleep apnea is a condition that causes patients to stop breathing during their sleep—so what does it have to do with your eyesight? Studies done in Taiwan show a significant correlation between sleep apnea and diabetic retinopathy—a condition marked by damage to the eye’s blood vessels.
Retinopathy can eventually progress and contribute to something called macular edema, which is a buildup of fluid in the retina that can severely damage the eye and cause vision loss. This condition can happen to anyone, but it’s more common in individuals with diabetes—and research found that patients with sleep apnea were more likely to suffer from macular edema. Additionally, individuals with severe sleep apnea experienced more severe symptoms in their eyes.
Even though the connection between sleep apnea and the vision problems stemming from retinopathy and macular edema is somewhat indirect, sleep apnea can easily begin the chain of events that leads to vision loss. For instance, sleep apnea can also cause extreme fatigue and stress which might lead to higher blood pressure, which in turn can damage blood vessels in the eyes and cause vision problems.
What Can I Do?
If you are concerned about sleep apnea and how it’s affecting you and potentially your vision, you should seek treatment, especially if you also suffer from diabetes. The connection between these things is easily traceable, and inaction will only increase the chances of serious problems developing.
Solutions including oral appliances and CPAP machines can easily improve the condition of your sleep apnea, assuming you’re eligible. Follow your dentist’s instructions carefully and remain consistent in your treatment—reducing the impact that your sleep apnea has can help to keep other problems at bay.
Of course, if you’re diabetic then you need to take the proper steps to manage that condition as well. A well-balanced diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are all important to keeping your diabetes under control.
Sleep apnea can do a lot to mess with your body; even your eyes aren’t safe! But by understanding the connection between it and other conditions you might have, you’re better equipped to protect yourself and lead a happier, healthier life.
About the Author
Dr. Jay A. Nelson has been practicing dental sleep medicine for over a decade and his practice offers a wide range of treatments to patients in the Wesley Chapel area. Dr. Nelson received his dental doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania and is a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. If you have any questions about sleep apnea or would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Nelson, feel free to reach out through his website or by phone: (813) 733-4169.