Many medical experts believe that sleep apnea patients face an increased risk of glaucoma. Some studies even show that the optic nerve could be damaged due to hypoxia (low oxygen level) without a spike in eye pressure.
There are both vascular and mechanical factors that are involved in the pathological mechanism of the optic nerve damage:
- Vascular factors are mainly the outcomes of repetitive or prolonged episodes of hypoxia, due to repetitive prolonged upper airway obstruction. This includes direct damage to the optic nerve, oxidative stress and inflammation, increased vascular resistance, autonomic dysfunction, increased intracranial pressure and decreased cerebral perfusion. Hypoxia also triggers an increase in blood pressure and vascular resistance, causing damage in the vascular endothelium. All of these consequences lead to the impairment of autonomic function, an imbalance of vasodilation and vasoconstriction.
- Mechanical factors include supine position and obesity related increased intraocular pressure (IOP), and intracranial pressure at night, and the depletion of fiber in the trabeculum and lamina cribrosa.
In conclusion, treating sleep apnea at an early stage helps to limit your susceptibility to larger health issues such as glaucoma. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma and wondering if you have sleep apnea, contact us at CanSleep Services to benefit from our free diagnostic test.