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Can Sleep Apnea Lead to Blindness?

December 23, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — sleepdunwoodyteam @ 5:52 pm

Not only does sleep apnea rob millions of Americans of quality rest every single night, but it can also lead to a variety of serious health problems if left untreated, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure, diabetes, depression, and frequent headaches. Basically, sleep apnea can be a BIG problem by itself, but left untreated, it also leads to many other serious concerns. In fact, a recent study just revealed a strong connection between sleep apnea and eye problems related to diabetes. 

New Findings About Sleep Apnea & Diabetes

A new study, conducted in Taiwan, has identified a possible link between severe sleep apnea and an increased risk of diabetic macular edema, which is the name for a damaging build-up of fluid in the macula, or the part of the retina responsible for sharp, clear vision, due to leaking blood vessels. Diabetic macular edema is a condition which is born out of diabetic retinopathy, a disease related to diabetes that damages the eye’s blood vessels and leads to vision impairment. It is the most common cause of blindness in individuals over the age of 50 in the United States. Diabetic retinopathy is worse for individuals with untreated diabetes or those who have a difficult time controlling their blood sugar levels. Left alone, these damaged blood vessels build up pressure in the eye and leak fluid, causing diabetic macular edema. 

The data for this study was taken from patients who were all diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taiwan. Participants were followed over the course of eight years.

What Did the Study Find?

The study’s results led researchers to believe that sleep apnea contributed to the development and worsening of diabetic retinopathy (and in turn, diabetic macular edema) by increasing insulin resistance, inflammation, and blood pressure, all of which damage the eye’s blood vessels, indicating a possible correlation.

In the majority of cases in the study, the patients with diabetic macular edema were more likely to have severe sleep apnea than those without diabetic macular edema. 80.6% of patients with diabetic macular edema had severe sleep apnea, while those without the eye condition had a 45.5% rate of sleep apnea. The study also found that the worse their sleep apnea was, the worse their macular edema was, too. Severe sleep apnea was more prevalent in the patients who needed more treatment for their macular edema — the patients with sleep apnea required three or more treatments of medical or laser therapy. The researchers concluded that more medical professionals should approach sleep apnea as a risk factor for diabetic macular edema. 

What This Means For You

Firstly, if you think you are suffering from sleep apnea, make sure to seek a diagnosis to mitigate your symptoms and protect yourself from the development of other conditions. By getting the disorder under control early, you can prevent the onset of other issues in addition to dramatically increasing the quality of your sleep. This is especially important if you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes. Getting the appropriate treatment for sleep apnea, as well as properly managing diabetes, can help you avoid much more serious health consequences. If you or someone you know has diabetes and is experiencing the symptoms of sleep apnea, don’t wait to schedule a free consultation at Sleep Better Georgia today

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