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Can Sleep Apnea Lead to Blindness?

August 12, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — dr_carollo @ 3:46 am

Model of man’s airwayIf you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you know the effects it can have on your health and wellness with no treatment. The sleep disorder is linked to many health concerns, including heart attacks and stroke. Not to mention, lack of sleep can take a toll on your quality of life as you battle fatigue, mood changes, or loss of concentration. However, you may not expect sleep apnea to cost you your eyesight. New research has found a link between sleep apnea, diabetes, and blindness. 

Sleep Apnea Connected to Blindness

Research from Taiwan has discovered a connection between severe sleep apnea and diabetic macular edema. Although the vision condition is a common complication of diabetes, it was found to be more difficult to treat in patients with sleep apnea. 

According to information presented to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, people with poor control over their blood sugar levels have an increased risk of vision loss. The blood vessels in the back of the eye can be damaged, called diabetic retinopathy, which is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. The blood vessels can develop tiny bulges that may leak fluid or blood into the retina. This can result in inflammation or edema, which can affect your ability to see clearly. 

Although sleep apnea is a breathing disorder, it can affect various areas of your body, including your eyes. Each interruption in breathing depletes your body of oxygen, triggering several changes in your body. Sleep apnea is known to injure blood vessels, increasing your risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and diabetes. However, it can also affect the blood vessels in the eyes, worsening diabetic retinopathy. 

Protect Your Eyesight and Breathe Better

Besides keeping your diabetes under control, you can protect your eyesight and breathe better with sleep apnea therapy. OSA is caused by an obstruction in the upper airway that’s created by the tongue or soft tissues in the back of the mouth collapsing. As you drift off to sleep, the muscles relax, which can lead to hundreds of breathing disturbances every night. 

A CPAP is the most traditional treatment for sleep apnea. Gentle air pressure is delivered through a mask worn over the mouth or nose to prevent blockages in the airway. Although effective, many people prefer an oral appliance. The custom-fit device repositions your tongue or jaw to keep the air passage open. It’s a comfortable, effective solution to stop interruptions in breathing to lessen your risk of blindness.

If you or your partner suspects sleep apnea, don’t wait to contact your healthcare provider. After diagnostic testing, they’ll recommend sleep apnea therapy to safeguard your health and vision.

About Dr. John A. Carollo

Dr. Carollo earned his dental degree from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and regularly continues his education in many specialties, like dental implants, cosmetic dentistry, and sleep medicine. He offers personalized treatment plans for patients with sleep apnea. Contact our office today to see if an oral appliance is right for you.

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