Blindness or severe vision impairment afflicts millions of people in the U.S. For many of these individuals, diabetic retinopathy led to their disability. You may be able to help your diabetic patients retain their vision by encouraging them to make dietary changes. But did you know that there is more you can do? By offering sleep apnea treatment, you may be able to prevent changes in the eye that contribute to vision impairment. Let’s discuss the link between blindness and sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea and Diabetic Retinopathy
Retinopathy is a condition marked by damage to the blood vessels in the retina, an area near the back of the eye that responds to light. Eventually, retinopathy can progress to the point where it contributes to macular edema (a buildup of fluid in the retina). Edema, in turn, may cause enough damage to the eye tissue that vision impairment or even total blindness can result.
There are a few different types of retinopathy; it can afflict anyone. However, it is particularly common in individuals with poorly managed diabetes.
At first, it might seem strange to connect sleep apnea to macular edema and diabetic retinopathy. However, research conducted in Taiwan has established a significant correlation between them. It was found that the rate of sleep apnea was twice as high among patients with macular edema compared to those without. The researchers also noted that the more severe the sleep apnea, the worse the macular edema.
How Does Sleep Apnea Cause Vision Problems?
It is unlikely that sleep apnea is a direct cause of diabetic retinopathy and macular edema. However, it can start a chain of events in the body that leads to vision problems. For example, sleep apnea can place extra stress on the body, which may lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure, in turn, can damage the delicate blood vessels in the eye.
It is also worth noting that people with sleep apnea often find it more difficult to manage their diabetes. This may be due to increased cravings for sugary foods and a lack of energy to keep up with a good routine of physical activity.
What You Can Do
By incorporating sleep apnea treatment into your practice, you may be able to help your patients protect their vision and keep their diabetes under control. Within days or weeks of beginning to use an oral appliance, they may notice an improvement in the quality of their sleep. The service you provide may be an essential component of their overall wellness plan!
Sleep apnea can have adverse effects on the entire body, including the eyes. Fortunately, you are in a position to help people in your community avoid the potentially devastating consequences of this disorder.
Meet the Sleep Apnea Expert
Dr. Kent Smith has dedicated much of his career to learning about and treating sleep apnea. He is proud to share his vast experience and knowledge with his fellow dentists. To learn about upcoming training programs, contact 21st Century Sleep Seminars at 817-318-6352.