Sleep Apnea Hits the Gas with “Snore & Roar”

Sleep Apnea Hits the Gas with “Snore & Roar”

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS) 

My 1971 Mustang Mach 1 and I recently attended the “Snore & Roar” car show here in Durham on October 5th 2013. As you may notice, this show was put on to help raise awareness about Sleep Apnea. The most common form of this medical condition, known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS), affects many millions of Americans and is caused by recurring airway blockage during sleep. Affected individuals may then stop breathing (apnea) for seconds to even a minute or more, allowing oxygen in the blood stream to drop to much lower than normal levels. The episodes of apnea may occur at intervals ranging from every 10 minutes or so to every minute or two. OSAS is often a chronic disorder that worsens with age and is associated with obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol use, some sedating medications and diabetes.

Findings and Risks of Sleep Apnea

Snoring, restless sleep and daytime sleepiness are common findings in these patients. The condition may significantly increase the risk of medical complications of high blood pressure, heart disease, heart rhythm problems and diabetes. 

My 1971 Mustang Mach 1 and I recently attended the “Snore & Roar”

The daytime sleepiness may increase the risk of automobile accidents. From the eye standpoint, OSAS has been associated with worsening of diabetic eye damage (retinopathy). There may also be associations with many other major ocular diseases including retinal vein occlusion, macular degeneration, glaucoma, optic nerve strokes and increased intracranial pressure causing optic nerve swelling. Fortunately, sleep testing and blood oxygenation measurements can positively diagnose the OSAS and very effective treatments using weight loss, oral/nasal appliances, Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices or even surgical procedures are available. The take home message should be: At risk individuals shouldn’t hesitate to talk with their medical caregivers about testing for this serious, all too common, but treatable condition.

For more information about eye complications of OSAS, I suggest starting with this American Academy of Ophthalmology website:http://www.aao.org/publications/eyenet/201302/comprehensive.cfm

David L. Sappenfield M.D.

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