Sleep apnea causes damage to many systems in your body, including your visual system. Usually, this is because of secondary effects due to cardiovascular damage. Fortunately, as with many consequences of sleep apnea, sleep apnea treatment can dramatically reduce your risks.
Glaucoma is sometimes described as the silent thief of sight because it is a condition that has no symptoms until you begin to experience vision loss. It is caused by damage to your optic nerve, often associated with elevated pressure in the eye, which is in turn affected by elevated blood pressure, a common consequence of sleep apnea. Glaucoma may also be caused by blockages of the blood supply to the optic nerve.
Sleep apnea can increase your risk of glaucoma by up to 4 times.
Papilledema is a swelling of the optic disc that can lead to vision loss. The optic disc is where the optic nerve attaches to the retina. Like glaucoma, Papilledema can be associated with elevated pressure in the head. Before vision loss, you may experience headaches, but the first optic symptoms you experience may be hemorrhages in the eye, followed by an enlarged blind spot, which may have blurred edges. If corrected in early stages, vision loss due to papilledema may be reversible.
Nonarteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION)
NAION is vision loss caused by a poor blood supply to your optic nerve. You will likely first notice it when you first wake up, when you experience a sudden partial loss of vision in one eye. This vision loss may continue to progress for about one eighth of sufferers, although nearly half will see some of their vision restored in the affected eye. If one of your eyes experiences NAION, there is a 1 in 5 chance your other eye will be affected within 5 years.
More than 70% of people with NAION have sleep apnea, and having sleep apnea increases your risk of NAION by 2.5 times.
Retinal Vein Occlusion
Retinal vein occlusion is another example of cardiovascular damage from sleep apnea resulting in secondary symptoms. Retinal vein occlusion occurs when the veins removing blood from the retina become blocked. This can cause a sudden blurring of vision in all or part of the visual field of one eye. Many people will experience a similar attack in their other eye later. Once vision loss occurs, it may recover partly.
Preventing Vision Loss
Don’t wait for sleep apnea to threaten your vision. Please contact the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center in Omaha for more information about sleep apnea and its treatment options.