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How Sleep Apnea Affects The Eyes

Did you know that some eye conditions are associated with sleep apnea? According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and Health Canada reports similar prevalence. It’s a sleep disorder where people stop breathing — often multiple times per night — while sleeping.

If you have sleep apnea: it tends to take longer for your tears to be replenished, you’re more likely to have ocular irritation, you have a higher chance of developing floppy eyelids, and you’re at increased risk for glaucoma.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are different types of sleep apnea. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During OSA, your airway becomes partially blocked due to relaxed muscles in your nose and throat. This causes apnea (the absence of breathing) or hypopnea (abnormally shallow, slow breathing). It’s twice as common in men, and is more likely to affect people with obesity, hypertension, diabetes or heart disease. 

What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body’s oxygen supply, which can lead to potentially serious health consequences. 

While snoring is a common symptom, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Interrupted sleep can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability or depression, headaches in the morning, difficulty concentrating and thinking, and a sore throat.

Which Eye Conditions Are Associated With Sleep Apnea?

Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when increased pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, leading to vision loss and sometimes blindness. In some cases, it might be due to a drop in blood oxygen levels, which happens when you stop breathing.

So, people with sleep apnea — even if it’s being treated — need to get their eyes checked on a regular basis for glaucoma.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome 

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) is an eye condition where a person has an unusually large and floppy upper eyelid. It can cause eye redness, irritation, discharge, or blurry vision — and over 90% of people with FES also have sleep apnea.

Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is an eye condition that occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the optic nerve. Patients typically complain of sudden, significant vision loss in one eye without any major pain. Approximately 70-80% of patients with NAION have been found to have OSA.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

Also referred to as an ‘eye stroke,’ retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a blockage of the small veins that carry blood away from the retina. A recent study of 114 RVO patients found that sleep apnea was suspected in 74% of the patients that had previously been diagnosed with RVO. 

Other Eye Health Issues Associated With Sleep Apnea

Some other ocular conditions that are more common in patients with sleep apnea include: papilledema, keratoconus, and central serous chorioretinopathy. Furthermore, in addition to glaucoma mentioned above, CPAP machines are associated with dry eye syndrome and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Talk To Your Doc

Get eye exams regularly to rule out eye disorders and prevent potential vision loss, especially if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. At Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Concord we encourage you to share your medical history with us so we can better diagnose and treat any eye conditions or ocular diseases you may have, and help you keep your eyes nice and healthy.

Try These 5 Home Remedies For Dry Eye Syndrome

Quality Eye Care At Lowy & Sewell Eye Care

Dry Eye Treatments At Lowy & Sewell Eye Care

If your eyes sting, burn, or feel scratchy you may have dry eye syndrome (DES), a condition that is usually caused by low-quality or low production of tears.

There are many factors that can cause dry eyes. Smoke and dry air can dry out the eyes, and so can wearing contact lenses, taking certain medications, and spending long periods of time reading a book or looking at a computer screen. In addition, our eyes tend to get drier as we age.

No matter the cause, dry eye syndrome can be extremely uncomfortable, and in severe cases can damage the cornea.

While only Dr. Lowy can diagnose and treat dry eye syndrome, these 5 home remedies may provide some relief.

Warm Compresses

A warm compress will improve oil flow through your eyelid glands and clean your eyelids. You can make them at home with a small face cloth and warm water or purchase compresses at your local pharmacy.

Eyelid Wash

A great form of preventative care is eye washing. Washing your eyes you can keep your tear ducts and eyelids from getting blocked.

To help remove crust from your eyelids and eyelashes and to keep your eyes cleaner, try applying a sting-free shampoo. Some pharmacies sell over-the-counter eyelid and eyelash washes to clean these areas.

Add Omega-3 to Your Diet

Oils are a necessary component of tears, as they add lubrication and reduce evaporation. Dry eye syndrome can result from insufficient oil, so adding omega-3 to your diet can increase the oil in tears.

To increase your omega-3 intake, either take supplements or eat foods that contain high levels of the fatty acid.

Foods that contain Omega-3 include:

  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseed
  • Palm oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts

Take Frequent Breaks and Blink More

When watching TV, reading, or using the computer many people forget to blink. It’s important to take breaks and blink more to inspire the flow of tears, which helps keep the moisture in your eyes intact. A well-known rule to follow is the 20-20-20 rule. It involves taking breaks at least every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds — especially when staring at a computer screen or digital device for long periods.

Tweak Your Environment

Environmental factors can cause or exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Heat, dust, smoke, pollution, high winds, and air conditioning all dry out our eyes. Using a cold-mist humidifier and not sitting directly in front of an air conditioner, heater, or fan can help reduce eye irritation.

Stay Hydrated

Last but not least: drink more water! Staying well-hydrated is good for your eyes and is critical for producing healthy tears, clearing out debris, blinking, and seeing comfortably. Be sure you drink lots of water to maintain your eye health, and of course, overall physical well-being.

Home remedies can relieve mild dry eyes but are not a replacement for a comprehensive eye exam. If the symptoms persist or worsen, contact Lowy & Sewell Eye Care in Concord. We are committed to keeping your eyes healthy and your vision clear.

Frequently Asked Dry Eye Questions with Dr. Lowy

Q: How do I know if I have Dry Eye?

A: Dry eye can cause quite a few symptoms, anything from the eyes actually feeling dry to the eyes watering often, or having a burning, itchy, or irritated feeling. One of the most common symptoms is the eyes feeling gritty or like something is in your eye. Most people will often experience blurred vision since the tears, which comprise the outermost surface of the eye, are unstable.

Q: What are some of the warning signs of Dry Eye? How is it best detected?

A: Warning signs can accumulate quite gradually over many years. Not uncommonly among contact lens wearers, they may incorrectly assume the lenses are old and need to be replaced. Other times the eyes water a bit more, or burn, or itch. Many, many cases are sub-clinical – they can only be diagnosed with the use of microscopic detection and special equipment. We look at tear quality, tear meniscus, and gland structure. Research has pointed towards the testing of tear osmolarity as a reliable indicator of the disease in terms of pre-treatment and post-treatment situations.

Q: When should a person come in to see their optometrist for Dry Eye symptoms and when is it enough to take care of this problem yourself?

A: Patients should undergo a dry eye evaluation by a therapeutic optometrist at the first signs of dry eyes. Those who wear, or over wear, contact lenses are at higher risk for dry eye syndrome, as are patients who suffer from multiple systemic conditions. Patients who are taking multiple medications may also complain of dry eye due to drug interactions. Mild acute symptoms may be treated with over the counter drops, but most patients select an incorrect product that isn’t specific to their condition and can often mask serious conditions or lead to toxic corneal reactions. A consult is also warranted for any patient who has been recently diagnosed with an autoimmune condition or undergoing high-risk medications.

Q: What are the typical treatments used to help people suffering from Dry Eyes?

A: Treatment for dry eye varies due to the severity and stage of the disease. Artificial tears can be helpful in the early stages. If artificial tears are not sufficient, we progress to a prescription medication such as Restasis or Xiidra. Also, lid hygiene, as well as omega-3 fish oil supplementation, can improve symptoms. Anti-inflammatory medications, as well as punctal plugs, are also available if needed for treatment.

 




Quality Eye Care – Dry Eye Treatments In Concord, Ontario. Visit Lowy & Sewell Eye Care for an eye exam today.

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