Those with sleep apnea are more likely to have eye problems.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder experienced by millions of Americans – 18 million – many of whom have not yet been diagnosed. Breathing is interrupted in these patients while sleeping, which prevents the brain from getting enough oxygen.
Sleep apnea patients are more likely to have ocular irritation, abnormal tear break-up time and an increased upper and lower lid laxity, in addition to being at higher risk of developing glaucoma.
Treatment for sleep apnea often requires lifestyle changes and use of a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine during sleep hours. This treatment is considered very effective in reducing the risk of health problems such as high blood pressure and heart failure, but use of the device can cause significant eye related issues.
Sleep apnea management requires the user to wear a mask connected to a machine that supplies constant and steady air pressure. According to a study published in Nature, 21% of CPAP users experience occasional mask edge air leaks, causing a constant air flow over the eyes that results in eye irritation, occasional swelling and dryness.
Moisture in the eyes is incredibly important. Eyelids have the thinnest skin on the body and many people do not always sleep with their eyelids fully closed (a condition named lagophthalmos).
Use of a CPAP machine is often a recipe for dry eyes. Dry eyes can cause discomfort, affect productivity, and over time can cause serious eye problems. If not attended to, this side effect of CPAP machines can become chronic. Even worse, patients may stop using the mask all together.
User compliance is crucial in the treatment of sleep apnea. Eyes are one of the most important parts of our bodies, but with everything else they are often overlooked. It is so important to take care of them.
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