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How Sleep Apnea Affects The Eyes

Did you know that some eye conditions are associated with sleep apnea? According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, and Health Canada reports similar prevalence. It’s a sleep disorder where people stop breathing — often multiple times per night — while sleeping.

If you have sleep apnea: it tends to take longer for your tears to be replenished, you’re more likely to have ocular irritation, you have a higher chance of developing floppy eyelids, and you’re at increased risk for glaucoma.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are different types of sleep apnea. The most common one is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). During OSA, your airway becomes partially blocked due to relaxed muscles in your nose and throat. This causes apnea (the absence of breathing) or hypopnea (abnormally shallow, slow breathing). It’s twice as common in men, and is more likely to affect people with obesity, hypertension, diabetes or heart disease. 

What are the common symptoms of sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body’s oxygen supply, which can lead to potentially serious health consequences. 

While snoring is a common symptom, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Interrupted sleep can cause excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, irritability or depression, headaches in the morning, difficulty concentrating and thinking, and a sore throat.

Which Eye Conditions Are Associated With Sleep Apnea?

Glaucoma

Glaucoma occurs when increased pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, leading to vision loss and sometimes blindness. In some cases, it might be due to a drop in blood oxygen levels, which happens when you stop breathing. However, CPAP machines, one of the most common treatments for sleep apnea, can also cause glaucoma. 

So, people with sleep apnea — even if it’s being treated — need to get their eyes checked on a regular basis for glaucoma.

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome 

Floppy Eyelid Syndrome (FES) is an eye condition where a person has an unusually large and floppy upper eyelid. It can cause eye redness, irritation, discharge, or blurry vision — and over 90% of people with FES also have sleep apnea.

Non-Arteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy

Non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is an eye condition that occurs when there is a loss of blood flow to the optic nerve. Patients typically complain of significant vision loss in one eye without any major pain. Approximately 70-80% of patients with NAION have been found to have OSA.

Retinal Vein Occlusion

Also referred to as an ‘eye stroke,’ retinal vein occlusion (RVO) is a blockage of the small veins that carry blood away from the retina. A recent study of 114 RVO patients found that sleep apnea was suspected in 74% of the patients that had previously been diagnosed with RVO. 

Other Eye Health Issues Associated With Sleep Apnea

Some other ocular conditions that are more common in patients with sleep apnea include: papilledema, keratoconus, and central serous chorioretinopathy. Furthermore, in addition to glaucoma mentioned above, CPAP machines are associated with dry eye syndrome and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Talk To Your Doc

Get eye exams regularly to rule out eye disorders and prevent potential vision loss, especially if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. At Antoine Eye Care in St. Louis we encourage you to share your medical history with us so we can better diagnose and treat any eye conditions or ocular diseases you may have, and help you keep your eyes nice and healthy.

The Best Foods for Your Eyes

We all know that eating nutrient-rich foods, drinking plenty of water, and exercising can boost our health. So it’s no surprise that these same activities also support eye health. Research has shown that regularly consuming certain vitamins and nutrients can actually prevent or delay sight-threatening eye conditions and diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. 

Here’s a list of the best vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that can help keep your eyes healthy for a lifetime. 

We invite you to consult with our eye doctor, Dr. Antoine, to discuss which nutrients are most suited to your specific eye health and needs. 

Vitamins and Nutrients That Support Eye Health

*Always best to speak with your primary care doctor before taking any vitamins or supplements, and to ensure you consume the correct dosage for your body.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A deficiency can cause a host of eye health issues, including dry eyes and night blindness. In fact, vitamin A deficiency is a leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Vitamins A and A1, which are essential for supporting the eye’s photoreceptors (the light-sensing cells) in the retina, can be found in foods like carrots, leafy greens, egg yolks, liver, and fish. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Eating Omega-3 rich foods like fatty fish can support eye health in a few ways. DHA and EPA, 2 different types of Omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to improve retinal function and visual development.  

Omega-3 supplements can also ease dry eye symptoms. A randomized controlled study found that people who consumed Omega-3 supplements experienced improved tear quality, which resulted in reduced tear evaporation and increased eye comfort.  

Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that accumulate in the lens and retina and help filter out damaging UV rays and blue light. One study showed that individuals who had the highest levels of these nutrients in their diets had a 43% lower chance of developing macular degeneration than those who had consumed the least amount.  

Spinach, egg yolks, sweet corn, and red grapes are some of the foods that contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin. 

Vitamin C 

High amounts of vitamin C can be found in the aqueous humor of the eye, the liquid that fills the eye’s anterior chamber and supports corneal integrity. This has prompted scientists to consider this vitamin’s role in protecting eye health. 

Research suggests that regularly taking vitamin C (along with other essential vitamins and minerals) can lower the risk of developing cataracts, and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration and visual acuity loss.

While vitamin C appears to support eye health in a variety of ways, it’s still unclear whether taking this supplement benefits those who aren’t deficient. Vitamin C can be found in various fruits and vegetables, like bell peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits, broccoli, and kale. 

Vitamin E

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that helps protect fatty acids from becoming oxidized. Because the retina has a high concentration of fatty acids, sufficient vitamin E intake is crucial for optimal ocular health. 

Vitamin E can be found in almonds, flaxseed oil, and sunflower seeds. 

Zinc

Healthy eyes naturally contain high levels of zinc. A zinc deficiency can cause night blindness, and thus increasing zinc intake can improve night vision. Zinc also helps absorb Vitamin A, an essential antioxidant. 

Make sure to avoid taking high doses of zinc (beyond 100 mg daily) without first consulting your eye doctor. Higher doses of zinc have been associated with side effects such as reduced immune function. You can increase your zinc intake naturally by consuming more oysters, meat, and peanuts. 

Phytochemical Antioxidants

Phytochemical antioxidants are chemicals produced by plants that contain several health benefits. Some studies show that these plant-based chemicals may enhance vision and eye health as well as prevent age-related eye diseases and complications by alleviating ocular oxidative stress. Oxidative stress within the eyes contributes to several eye conditions, including  dry eye syndrome. Consuming more produce with these antioxidants can help balance the anti-oxidant and pro-oxidant system, resulting in healthier eyes. 

Personalized Eye Nutrition 

If you or someone you know is looking for ways to boost or maintain eye health, speak with an optometrist near you about what supplements and vitamins are best for you. For an eye doctor in St. Louis, give us a call at 314-375-2255.

 

Home Remedies For Dry Eye

woman washing her face with water 2087954If your eyes burn, itch or feel gritty, you may have dry eye syndrome. This is typically caused by a low production of tears or low-quality tears.

Many substances and situations can cause dry eyes, such as the medication you’re taking, the time spent staring at your phone or computer without blinking, exposure to smoke or dry air, wearing contact lenses or aging. No matter the cause, it feels pretty terrible.

If you’re stuck at home and social distancing in order to keep yourself and others safe, worry not — you can still find relief from your unpleasant symptoms. In addition to using artificial tears and ocular lubricants, you may want to try these at-home remedies with products or items you may have in your cupboard.

Eyelid Wash

One way to produce higher quality tears is to keep your eyelids clean. You can do this by using a gentle cleanser, such as baby shampoo, and rubbing a small amount between your fingertips until it becomes frothy. Simply close your eyes and gently massage the soap into the base of your eyelids, right by your eyelashes, and then rinse with warm water while keeping your eyes closed.

Pay particular attention to the areas with makeup or facial creams that could enter the tear film and potentially irritate your eyes. Follow the eyelid wash with a warm compress (see below) to help your eyes regain moisture.

Repeat this process morning and night to relieve dry eye symptoms.

Warm Compress

A warm compress increases circulation to the eye area and stimulates tear production. This method also soothes your eye irritation by releasing oils that may have accumulated in the glands of your eyelid, thus improving tear quality.

Instructions: Prepare a bowl with warm water. Then soak a clean, lint-free cloth in the water, wring it out and place it over your eyes for a maximum of ten minutes. If the compress cools down, soak it once again in the warm water. Do this several times a day for a few days until your eyes feel better.

Add Omega-3 to Your Diet

Those lacking essential fatty acids in their diet are prone to developing dry eye syndrome. Studies show that consuming omega-3 fatty acids may stimulate tear production and create quality tears that lubricate your eyes more effectively. Consider supplementing your diet with omega-3 fatty acids, which are naturally found in foods like salmon, sardines, anchovies, and flax seeds. Taking fish oil capsules or other omega-3 tablets also works really well.

Coconut Oil

Virgin coconut oil is great for those with dry eyes, as it creates a protective layer over the tear film layers, resulting in reduced evaporation. Furthermore, coconut oil has antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, anti-parasitic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties. All you need to do is soak a cotton ball in coconut oil and place it on your closed eyelid. Do this several times a day until your eyes feel better.

Increase Caffeine Intake

Studies indicate that caffeine may alleviate dry eye by increasing production in the tear glands. Just make sure you’re careful when consuming caffeine, as it can lead to jitters, irritability and insomnia, particularly if you’re sensitive to caffeine, or if consumed in high quantities.

The participants in one study consumed capsules with 200 mg to 600 mg of caffeine (or 2-6 cups of coffee), depending on their weight.

On the other hand, caffeine in some people may act as a mild diuretic, which means they generally pass more water, possibly making the dry eye worse.

Change Your Environment

You may need to change your environment to prevent or alleviate dry eye, as dry air, high winds, dust, smoke, pollution and air conditioning can lead to temporary eye dryness. Consider using a cold-mist humidifier and avoid sitting directly in front of air conditioners or fans.

Wear Sunglasses

When outdoors, particularly when it’s windy, dusty or there’s the risk of high levels of UV exposure, wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes and decrease the chance of debris entering the eyes. Additionally, the front of your eyes has a protective layer called the conjunctiva, which can become red and inflamed when exposed to high levels of UV light or dust. Wearing good quality sunglasses will further prevent the eyes from experiencing those dry and irritating feelings.

Dry eye syndrome can cause another condition called photophobia, or acute sensitivity to light. By wearing sunglasses, you can further ease your dry eye symptoms.

More tips to prevent or alleviate dry eye symptoms

Blink More

By deliberately blinking, you stimulate the flow of tears which can help keep the moisture on your eyes intact. Though purposeful blinking may look unnatural, it’s still worth practicing in order to get used to blinking enough throughout the day — particularly when staring at screens (computer or digital devices) for extended periods.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Drinking alcohol can dehydrate your body, which then affects the quality of your tears. Consider limiting your alcohol intake, or eliminate it entirely, and see whether there’s a correlation between your alcohol consumption and dry eyes.

Stop Smoking

Cigarette smoking can double the risk of developing dry eye syndrome. Cigarette smoke is harmful to the eyes as it has more than 7,000 chemicals, all of which can irritate eyes. Furthermore, smoking can impact the composition of your tears.

If you’re a smoker, consider quitting. If you’re a non-smoker, avoid environments where there is an abundance of heavy smoking.

Drink More Water

Last but not least: drink more water! Staying well-hydrated is good for your eyes and is critical for manufacturing healthy tears, clearing out debris, blinking and seeing comfortably.

Make sure you drink 8-10 glasses of water a day for eye health, and of course, overall general physical wellbeing.

At-home remedies can alleviate mild and temporary instances of the condition. If the symptoms persist or worsen, contact Antoine Eye Care Dry Eye Center to speak with Dr. Michael Antoine, O.D..

Antoine Eye Care Dry Eye Center is committed to helping you manage your long-term eye health. We serve patients from St. Louis, Brentwood, Clayton, Ladue, and throughout Missouri.

Resources:

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/caffeine-dry-eye

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120417102358.htm

https://www.healio.com/optometry/nutrition/news/print/primary-care-optometry-news/%7B4ec4aff0-09b2-4c1c-aca1-7c8201b7610b%7D/ods-recommend-omega-3-omega-6-supplements-for-managing-dry-eye

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