Sleep Apnea and Glaucoma
With a significant percentage of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) patients suffering from some forms of glaucoma, researchers have begun to study the relationships between the two conditions over the last several years. For OSA patients that are also living with glaucoma, the questions regarding the effects of CPAP therapy via a CPAP machine are real and ongoing.
Glaucoma is actually comprised of several optic nerve-damaging eye conditions. It is typically caused by high pressure within the eye, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms are usually slow-progressing, with vision loss being one of the only signs. Some of the glaucoma risk factors such as age are very common while others such as ethnicity are less so.
A number of clinical studies over the last several years have shown an association between sleep apnea and several glaucoma indicators. This includes intraocular pressure (IOP), visual field means deviation, cup-to-disk ratios, and retinal nerve fiber layer thickness. More recently Taipei Medical University researchers published results from a study in the journal Ophthalmology that showed OSA patients have a higher risk of developing glaucoma compared with people without the sleep disorder.
There are many studies showing the reduction in IOP among glaucoma patients following use of a CPAP machine. Still, the complexities of glaucoma as well as the wide variations in OSA severities make a direct correlation more elusive. Some studies have suggested that CPAP therapy can even raise IOP to some degree. But, many researchers generally agree that the risk is possible in a smaller subset of OSA patients.
Even then, most researchers and medical experts see the increased oxygen levels attained through the use of a CPAP machine and the overall health benefits far outweighing the hypothetical risks. The takeaway for OSA patients, especially those with severe forms of the condition, is to work with their physician and sleep therapist to monitor all physiological conditions and ask questions.
The direct links between increased risk of hypertension, high blood pressure, obesity, OSA, and other severe health risks are becoming clearer each day. Some still see the effects of sleep apnea on ocular blood flow as being in the hypothetical phase. But, there are several current studies looking at sleep and IOP. In fact, the Mayo Clinic has many Glaucoma research studies focusing on circadian changes and how sleep can impact glaucoma.
According to their research, Intraocular pressure (IOP) varies throughout the day with the highest pressures occurring during sleep. While these changes happen for everyone regardless of health, the reasons are still unclear.
What we do know, and what is becoming even clearer, is that sleep has a profound effect on our health. With the proven benefits for millions of OSA patients using a CPAP machine, more restful sleep lead to healthier lives.
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