Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder which involves stopping of breathing repeatedly during sleep due to relaxation of throat muscles blocking the airway. Recent research has shown that it affects almost all parts of the human body including the most delicate organ, eye.
It has been shown in various studies that sleep apnea causes a negative impact on ocular (eye) health leading to various serious problems like Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES). Floppy eyelid syndrome is a condition in which the upper eyelid evert with minimal force leading to vision abnormalities. Studies have proved the association of FES with sleep apnea in almost 96% of cases, which is quite significant. It suggests that the patients suffering from FES are more likely suffering from sleep apnea as well.
Association of sleep apnea has been studied with other serious eye problems like non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (sudden painless loss of vision on one side which can not be reversed), and central serous retinopathy (collection of water under the retina). Various studies have supported the fact that sleep apnea causes lack of oxygen in the tissue cells in various parts of the eye leading to abnormal functioning of the blood barriers and leaking of fluids in inappropriate areas causing damage to the cells. There are case reports supporting the fact of reversal of these conditions with continuous use of CPAP device which is used to treat sleep apnea.
Retinal vein occlusion or blocking of the blood vessel in the retina is another potentially serious condition associated with sleep apnea. It is the second most common cause of blindness. Sleep apnea causes slowing of blood flow and increases in pressure in the brain. This array of events cause blocking of blood vessels leading to loss of vision in people suffering from sleep apnea.
Glaucoma is another condition of the eye which manifests as increased pressure in the eyes and vision changes. Research in the associated field has shown a strong association between sleep apnea and development of glaucoma. In sleep apnea, lack of oxygen leads to damage around the nerves in the eyes leading to increased pressure and injury resulting in vision changes. Results of the studies have shown that using CPAP device and treating sleep apnea will not only decrease the progression of this disease but also improve the visual symptoms.
Sleep apnea patients are at risk of many vision-threatening conditions which can be prevented by treating this condition in a timely fashion. In case of pre-existing conditions use of CPAP device can improve the symptoms to a great extent.