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Sleep Apnea Poses Threat to Eye Health

Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is more than just a poor night's sleep. OSAS can affect a person's overall health which even includes ocular health. Patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea are at risk for many eye abnormalities. Ophthalmologists are taking note of the apparent link between sleep apnea and various eye abnormalities. A few of these eye abnormalities are retinal microaneurysms, impaired retinal blood flow, hypertensive retinopathy and macular edema. A simple dilation of the retina can alert the ophthalmologist to whether a patient should be screened for OSAS. In addition to the retinal dilation, comprehensive ophthalmologists are encouraged to screen their patients with an Epworth Sleepiness Scale to validate concerns of OSAS. This diagnostic tool allows patients to rate the possibility of dozing off during various activities on a scale of 0 to 3 with 3 being the highest possibility of dozing. A patient scoring 10 or above should be referred for a sleep study. Ophthalmologists should always be on the lookout for OSAS as a possible contributor in chronic eye disease. Sleep apnea can have an extremely detrimental effect on diabetics. OSAS is linked with a more aggressive retinopathy. It can can aggravate diabetes and magnify the coinciding vascular effects. It is common for ophthalmologists to see diabetics who have great hemoglobin A1C readings but progressively worsening diabetic retinopathy. This can be caused by the repeated apneic episodes in which the oxygen concentration can fall 30 points or more within a few seconds. This is comparative to being suddenly propelled upon Mt. Everest over 100 times per night. Patients diagnosed with OSAS are often amazed at the difference in their overall health once they begin treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This effective treatment can bring diabetes and blood pressure under control and reverse some eye conditions.* Elise Ervin Staff Writer

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