Is Retinal Vein Occlusion More Common in Patients with Sleep Apnea?
Arteries carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body and veins carry blood back to the heart. An occlusion, also called a stroke, is the result of the artery or vein being blocked. Retinal vein occlusion is caused by a blood clot from hardened arteries that blocks the veins carrying blood away from the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye. Blood vessels deliver oxygen and nutrients and when blocked, or cut off, damage the area that is not receiving the needed blood. This blockage in the retinal vein can lead to macular edema where fluid becomes trapped in and under the retina known as macular edema causing blurred vision or loss of visual acuity. Other conditions can develop as well such as neovascularization, neovascular glaucoma and blindness. There are 2 types of retinal vein occlusion: central (the blockage of the main retinal vein) and branch (the blockage of one of the smaller branch veins). Retinal vein occlusion has no cure and can lead to the rapid and severe loss of vision.
People with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and health conditions that affect blood flow are at a higher risk for retinal vein occlusion. Ophthalmologists recognize visual conditions that are associated with hypertension or diabetic retinopathy, but recent studies have linked patients who have sleep apnea with ocular conditions such as floppy eyelid syndrome, nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, papilledema, glaucoma and retinal conditions. Retinal vein occlusion is the second most common vascular disorder known to affect the retina and shares common risk factors with sleep apnea. The common link is the hypoxic nature, having too little oxygen, of obstructive sleep apnea and its impact on the retina, which requires significant oxygen to function. When the body is lacking oxygen, the nerves tend to swell which could potentially cause the blockage in the small veins and arteries of the eye.
Attributing sleep apnea to retinal vein occlusion is considered rare as most doctors link the top risk factors for retinal vein occlusion to atherosclerosis, diabetes, hypertension and other eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular edema, or vitreous hemorrhage. Still, if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea, we encourage you to seek the advice of your eye doctor to monitor the health of your retina. Retinal imaging can produce high-definition photographs allowing your ophthalmologist to see the retinal blood vessels.
See a retinal specialist at Associated Retina Consultants by calling 602-242-4928 or requesting an appointment online at WEBSITE.