New study finds sleep disorders linked to glaucoma
Sleep is an important part of overall health – and that includes eye health. A new study suggests that poor sleep quality may be linked to glaucoma, a leading cause of vision loss. Given the CDC’s finding that 1 in 3 U.S. adults does not get enough sleep, this should ring alarm bells. Especially since eye doctors know that half of people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it, since it typically has no early symptoms.
Here’s whom you should be targeting with your patient education, and why visual tools like Rendia can make all the difference.
The link between sleep disorders and glaucoma
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness. It’s estimated that it will affect 112 million people worldwide by 2040. We recently reported on how earlier screening, especially in higher risk groups including people of color and people age 60 and over, could significantly improve glaucoma detection and slow down progression. This new research suggests that eye doctors and ENTs should also target people with sleep disorders in their patient outreach and education.
Sleep disorders, often underdiagnosed, are linked to higher risk of a vision-threatening condition that is also underdiagnosed: glaucoma.
The findings of the study, which monitored more than 409,000 people in the U.K. over a period of about 10 years, were published in the BMJ Open. Researchers found that frequent daytime sleepiness was associated with a 20% higher risk of glaucoma. The risk rose 12% with insomnia, and snoring was associated with a 4% higher risk.
Like glaucoma, sleep apnea is underdiagnosed and can be linked to serious health issues. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, sleep apnea affects an estimated 30 million Americans, yet 80% of cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea go undiagnosed. For more on this topic, see our post Is That Snoring a Sign of Something More Serious?
No cure for glaucoma, so early intervention is key
The findings of the glaucoma study highlight the need for sleep intervention in people who are at high risk of glaucoma and the importance of comprehensive eye exams among people with chronic sleep disorders.
The message to patients should be: early detection and management of glaucoma can slow disease progression and prevent permanent vision loss. And while there is no cure for glaucoma, the management of the disease has undergone a transformation in the past decade, thanks to “the introduction of several new medications, a new understanding of the role of lasers, and the rapid growth of low-risk microsurgeries,” according to the Optometry Times.
Research shows that only 29% of patients can accurately define glaucoma. Make sure your patient education motivates them to manage the condition early.
However, patients may lack the incentive to manage glaucoma if they don’t fully understand their diagnosis. Research published in Current Ophthalmology Reports found that only 29% of patients surveyed could accurately define glaucoma. Rendia can help show patients how glaucoma affects their vision, and the importance of sticking to their treatment plan.
Consider sharing this video with patients to start the conversation:
Show patients how their vision may be affected
In the BMJ Open study, participants who were diagnosed with glaucoma tended to be older, male, smokers, and to have high blood pressure or diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness in U.S. adults, according to the American Diabetes Association. Like glaucoma, this condition often has no obvious symptoms, leaving patients unaware of the threat to their sight.
Glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy are leading causes of blindness, but lack early symptoms. This is where vision simulations can help.
Because of the lack of symptoms, it can be challenging to get patients to pursue treatment. This is where vision simulations can be helpful. For example, a tool like Exam Mode can show them what deteriorating vision from glaucoma or diabetic retinopathy might look like.
When it comes to sight-threatening conditions, the best solution is early detection. Showing patients the potential impact on their vision can be far more effective than simply telling them.