Sleep apnoea and its relationship with glaucoma


Sleep apnoea, a common disorder that affects breathing during nighttime rest, has garnered increasing interest due to its relationship with various pathologies. Scientific evidence confirms its link with glaucoma, a progressive eye disease that can lead to vision loss. How are these two seemingly disparate disorders related?

Sleep apnoea is characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, causing episodes of intermittent hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and fluctuations in blood pressure. These events can trigger a cascade of physiological responses that affect various systems in the body, including the eyes

Several studies have suggested that sleep apnea may contribute to the development and progression of glaucoma. It has been observed that snoring patients with apnea have a higher risk of developing glaucoma, especially of the “normotensive or low eye pressure glaucoma” subtype. Additionally, these patients have a higher risk of experiencing a worsening of the disease compared to those without respiratory disorders during sleep.

The connection between sleep apnoea and glaucoma can be explained by several mechanisms. The repeated nightly lack of oxygen and changes in blood pressure associated with apneas can alter blood circulation in the optic nerve and retina, potentially contributinge to the eye damage characteristic of glaucoma.

Recognition of this relationship between sleep apnoea and glaucoma has important clinical implications. Snoring patients with apneas could benefit from regular ophthalmological evaluations to detect early signs of glaucoma and monitor disease progression. Similarly, those diagnosed with glaucoma may benefit from evaluation for sleep-disordered breathing to address potential modifiable risk factors. Diagnosing and treating sleep apnoea can save lives and also help manage many cases of glaucoma.

Dr. Marta Mármol, ophthalmologist at the Barraquer Ophthalmology Centre


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