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Sleep Apnea & Glaucoma

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Do you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea? This is a condition where muscles in the airway relax during sleep and keep you from breathing, often for a few minutes at a time. Symptoms include loud snoring, gasping for air, feeling sleepy during the day and waking up with a headache. If you are aware that you have sleep apnea, you are likely cautious of other health conditions it may lead to such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. But did you know that if you have sleep apnea, you are also at a significant increased risk for developing glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a serious disease that affects the eye’s optic nerve. Once the optic nerve becomes damaged, vision loss is irreversible. Studies show that people who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to develop glaucoma than those who do not have this sleep problem. Although the relationship between sleep apnea and glaucoma is not fully understood, researchers believe that the reduction of oxygen in the blood from breathing abnormally in obstructive sleep apnea may play a role in their relationship. There is currently no definite answer, but upon further studies, eye care professionals are hopeful that we will continue to improve our understanding and treatments for glaucoma and other obstructive sleep apnea-related eye diseases.

It’s worth noting that not every sleep apnea patient will develop glaucoma and vice versa, not every glaucoma patient has sleep apnea. Remember, though, that glaucoma is a silent, slowly progressing disease that presents very few noticeable symptoms. The best way to catch glaucoma in its early stages before it causes irreversible damage is to get screened for it during your yearly eye exams. As always, if you are concerned about your eye health at any point, please consult your eye doctor.