Lesser-Known Problems Linked to Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Growing up, my dad had sleep apnea. Getting to sleep before he got to bed was important, or you would not get to sleep because he snored like a freight train! Along with the periods of not breathing in between. 

My dad's diagnosis and treatment journey

However, he did not get diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea until about 20 years after we were all grown and moved out. His first CPAP machine helped a lot.

Luckily, he was able to have surgery to correct his apnea. Therefore, he no longer needs the sleep apnea machine.

I thought I knew all about sleep apnea

So by the time I was diagnosed, I thought I knew all the things that obstructive sleep apnea could cause. You know the common things.  Like daytime sleepiness, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mood, and psychiatric problems – the normal things we hear about.

But do you know about other less-talked-about problems? Here are 2 of them:

Possible problems associated with obstructive sleep apnea

1. Vision problems

Are you aware that obstructive sleep apnea can lead to vision problems? Several studies have shown ocular associations like floppy eyelid syndrome, glaucoma, dry eye syndrome, papilledema, keratoconus, non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, etc.!1 

Have you ever heard of all these?? Cataracts are another one on the list above that is common for people to have. So it is very important to have regular, yearly eye exams. As well as to let your eye doctor know that you have sleep apnea!! The question is, if you are having ocular problems, is the sleep apnea causing it, or is it a separate issue?

2. Treatment-emergent central sleep apnea

Here is one to be aware of – obstructive sleep apnea can lead to central sleep apnea from just using the CPAP machine, a condition known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.2 It is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apneas. In central sleep apnea, the problem is not a blocked airway. Instead, pauses in breathing occur because the brain and the muscles that control breathing are not functioning properly. As a result, there is no normal respiratory effort, which is in clear contrast to obstructive sleep apnea.2 

But it is important to know that a few central apneas per night are considered normal. Like, we often “forget to breathe” briefly as we drift off to sleep or after waking up. In central sleep apnea, the problem is not a blocked airway.

The more we know

Please check out the references listed below for more information about the possible vision and central sleep problems associated with obstructive sleep apnea that are not often discussed.

Have you experienced vision problems associated with your sleep apnea? What happened and how did you connect it to sleep apnea?

Has anyone developed treatment-emergent sleep apnea? We would love to hear more about your experiences in the comments below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The SleepApnea.Sleep-Disorders.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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