Can Sleep Apnea Cause Blindness?

December 7, 2023

Filed under: Uncategorized — healthsleeptul @ 9:47 pm
Tired senior man with vision problems

Across the United States, countless individuals are afflicted by blindness or significant vision impairment. For some of these people, cataracts, accidents, or other sad circumstances led to their disability. For many, though, the primary cause of their vision impairment is diabetic retinopathy. Certainly, if you have diabetes, making efforts to manage your condition could protect your eye health. Another important step you can take is to get enough high-quality sleep. Continue reading to learn more about the connection between sleep apnea and blindness.

Sleep Apnea and Diabetic Retinopathy

Retinopathy is a condition that occurs when blood vessels in the retina incur damage (the retina is the part of the eye that responds to light). Eventually, retinopathy can lead to macular edema, which is a buildup of fluid in the retina. In turn, edema causes damage to important eye tissues. Blindness or vision impairment is the result. Unfortunately, retinopathy often occurs in individuals with uncontrolled diabetes.

There is a significant correlation between sleep apnea, diabetic retinopathy, and macular edema. One study even found that the occurrence of severe sleep apnea was twice as high in patients with macular edema compared to participants without vision problems.

How Does Sleep Apnea Cause Vision Problems?

Sleep apnea is a condition that causes interruptions in breathing during sleep. It may not be a direct cause of vision problems in people with diabetes. However, it can start a chain reaction that may lead to retinopathy and macular edema. For example, sleep apnea may cause high blood pressure, which can damage blood vessels in the eyes. Plus, sleep apnea can make it more challenging for diabetics to manage their condition.

What You Can Do

If you suspect that low sleep quality might be heightening your risk of blindness, you should take a few practical steps to protect your vision:

  • If you have not yet been diagnosed with sleep apnea, ask your doctor to refer you for an official sleep test.
  • Learn about your sleep apnea treatment options. For example, many patients enjoy using a custom oral appliance that facilitates uninterrupted breathing at night.
  • Consistently use your treatment. It is common for people to notice improvements in the quality of their sleep soon after they start using an oral appliance.
  • Ask your primary care practitioner to help you manage your diabetes.

Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition — it might even put your vision at risk! Do all you can to protect your eyes.

Meet the Practice

Healthy Sleep Tulsa is home to three talented sleep dentists: Drs. Angie Nauman, Lori Hare, and Billie Reeder. They work together to help patients manage their sleep apnea via effective and comfortable oral appliance therapy. If you are curious about how our team might be able to help you enjoy improved health, contact us at 918-300-4325.

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