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  • Writer's pictureMaria Cholakova

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and The Risk of Dry Eye

Dry eye disease is a common ocular condition that affects a significant proportion of the global population. With unpleasant symptoms such as eye dryness, redness, irritation, and discomfort, the condition can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. While many factors contribute to the development of dry eye disease, recent research suggests that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be a huge risk factor.

Read on to learn more about the connection between obstructive sleep apnea and dry eyes, and what to do to improve your condition.

Table of Content:

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

Illustration showing difference between normal sleep and sleep apnea

OSA is a sleep disorder that is partial or complete upper airway obstruction during sleep. OSA can lead to snoring, gasping, breathing interruptions, dry mouth, and morning headaches. The condition has been linked to a variety of health problems, including hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

It is thought that airway obstruction episodes cause the body to produce hormones that increase the risk of health problems. This is because the body is under increased stress due to the lack of oxygen during airway obstruction episodes.

What is Dry Eye?

Infographic about the symptoms of dry eye

Dry eye is a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears or tears are not of the correct consistency to keep the eyes moist and comfortable. This is an unpleasant eye condition that may cause eye irritation, redness, burning sensations, watery eyes, the feeling of having something in the eyes, blurred vision, and light sensitivity.

OSA and Dry Eye Disease Scientific Research & Results

A scientific case-control study explores the association between poor sleep quality and an increased risk of dry eye disease in OSA patients. For the purpose of the research, 125 study participants underwent a comprehensive eye examination. Researchers explored their sleep habits and OSA symptoms.

They found that individuals with obstructive sleep apnea were more likely to have dry eye disease than those without obstructive sleep apnea. The study also finds that obstructive sleep apnea severity positively correlates with dry eye disease severity. Individuals with severe OSA are more likely to have severe dry eye disease than those with mild or moderate OSA.

Researchers speculate that this may be due to repeated awakenings and decreased oxygen levels in obstructive sleep apnea patients. Which leads to inflammation of the cornea and tear evaporation.

Link Between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Dry Eye Disease

Person with Sleep Apnea and Person with Dry Eye Syndrome

The link between obstructive sleep apnea and dry eye disease is a relatively new area of research. However, the findings suggest that OSA patients should undergo screening for dry eye disease and receive appropriate treatment.

Dry eye disease treatment depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. In mild cases, artificial tears or lubricating eye drops may alleviate symptoms. In more severe cases, prescription medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs or immunomodulators, may be necessary. Lifestyle modifications, such as using a humidifier or avoiding certain environmental triggers, may also be helpful.

Individuals with OSA should seek treatment for both conditions to optimize their ocular and overall health. While the Ophthalmology24 team tried to cover as much as possible in this article, further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between OSA and dry eye disease and develop effective treatment strategies.

If you have any health concerns, please seek professional medical help.

Resources & relevant research on the topic:

All medical facts were checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.

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