January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, so it is best to learn as much as possible about glaucoma during this month. Glaucoma affects over 60 million people worldwide and is the second-leading cause of blindness. If glaucoma is not detected and goes untreated, it will result in peripheral vision loss and eventual irreversible blindness.
Recent research has connected obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) with increased glaucoma risk. Sleep apnea is a condition that obstructs breathing during sleep, and it affects 100 million people around the globe. A blocked airway can cause loud snoring, gasping or choking because breathing stops for up to two minutes. Poor sleep due to sleep apnea results in morning headaches and chronic daytime sleepiness.
Establishing a connection between sleep apnea and glaucoma was just one of six primary studies performed by Shulin Liu, M.D., and colleagues, which involved almost 2.3 million participants.
The research team examined a group of participants who had OSA and a group that did not have OSA and evaluated their risk for glaucoma. Compared with non-OSA group, the OSA group had a higher incidence of glaucoma, and Chinese OSA patients had an even higher risk for glaucoma than individuals in other countries. Other groups who were at higher risk were younger OSA patients and females.
This research will hopefully encourage primary care physicians to tell patients with OSA that they are at increased risk for glaucoma. Even though the nature of the connection between these two conditions are unclear, this knowledge can motivate patients to follow up with their eye care professional for a comprehensive eye exam. All comprehensive eye exams include a test that gives a pressure reading in the eye. If pressure is elevated, this could indicate glaucoma (Source: Healio).