A recent study highlighted the possible connection between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and retinal disease.1 “OSA is typically associated with ‘being tired,’ but it can also negatively impact the systemic vascular system, including the retina,” Paul B. Freeman, OD, said in a Practice Update commentary.2

OSA is associated with the development of diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion and central serous chorioretinopathy. Each has a significant impact on the health care system.1

The researchers found that the severity of OSA and specific biomarkers, such as the apnea-hypopnea index, correlated with retinal disease severity. Additionally, they stated that dysregulation of the gene that governs circadian rhythm is also associated with the development of proliferative retinal disease, further demonstrating the importance of healthy sleep and respiration in retinal health.1

“OSA creates systemic changes and hypoxic conditions that may incite or exacerbate retinal vascular diseases,” the study authors concluded in their paper. “Retinal changes may be the first clinical manifestations of otherwise undiagnosed OSA. It’s important to refer patients with new-onset retinal vascular disease for appropriate sleep testing.”1

1. D’Souza H, Kapoor KG. Retinal vascular manifestations of obstructive sleep apnea. Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2020;31(6):508-13.

2. Retinal vascular manifestations of obstructive sleep apnea. Practice Update. December 10, 2020. www.practiceupdate.com/journalscan/75940/2/5. Accessed December 15, 2020.