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Link between Sleep Apnea and Eye problems

Sleep apnea can cause certain eye changes that can result in a variety of eye disorders. For example, hypoxia (low oxygen) from sleep apnea can lead to eye disorders.

The fluctuation of oxygen levels from the on and off breathing of a person suffering from sleep apnea causes pressure in the eyes and can trigger inflammation. There are other eye disorder that may result from the treatment of sleep apnea using CPAP devices.

Dry Eye Syndrome is a side effect from the use of CPAP treatment due to the air can leak from the mask and entering the eyes. Continuous air flow into the eyes for eight hours of sleep every night can lead symptoms of dry eye syndrome, including irritation, teariness, itching and burning. By adjusting the fit of the CPAP mask, switching to a nasal mask if appropriate, or changing sleeping position dry eye syndrome can be treated.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome is associated with obstructive sleep apnea. This is when the upper lid has unusual loose, overstretched, elastic, or be able to turn inside out. This can lead to symptoms of eye irritation and dry eye.

Papilledema is swelling of the optic nerve discs. This is located in the area where the optic nerve enters the back of the eye. In some serious case, swelling can lead to blindness. Papilledema can be a result of idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) and the American Academy of Ophthalmology identifies a connection between sleep apnea and IIH.

Nonarteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION) also known as eye stroke is the result of loss of blood flow to the optic nerve. This can be sudden and painless but can result in loss of vision. Around 70%-80% of people with NAION have sleep apnea. It is believed eye conditions such as hypoxia, oxidative and fluctuating ocular pressure may be linked to sleep apnea. Treatment of sleep apnea will not cure vision loss caused by NAION, but it can prevent NAION vision loss from happening in the other eye.

Glaucoma is the result of damaged optic nerves that connect the eye to the brain. It is common with people with obstructive sleep apnea. It is believed that sleep apnea leads to glaucoma due to hypoxia and oxiddative stress.


Eye disorder associated with sleep apnea will have various treatments, with part of the treatment including diagnosing and treating sleep apnea. Treating and having sleep apnea under control may improve the eye conditon, vision and other related symptoms.

Some treatments for sleep apnea:

  • CPAP device
  • custom-fit dental device
  • surgery
  • positional therapy
  • losing weight
  • stop smoking
  • reduce consumption of alcohol


The information above contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.