Research Findings Uncover Possible Links between Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Keratoconus, CPAP, and Dry Eye

Man with sleep apnea using a CPAP machineWe like to pass along research findings of interest to our BFS community as they cross our radar. Here are some interesting recent discoveries related to keratoconus and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as well as the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment for apnea and dry eye that can be an unintended consequence of this treatment.

As reported in the June 2012 issue of Cornea, practitioners at the Duke Eye Center undertook a study to identify whether there was a correlation between keratoconus and mortality while specifically looking at sleep apnea as a symptom. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when there are repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. Untreated, the sleep deprivation and lack of oxygen resulting from OSA can lead to serious health risks, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. In their 14-year study of 101 patients diagnosed with keratoconus, the Duke University researchers found a much greater incidence of OSA in comparison with the general population. Their findings suggest a need for ophthalmologists to include screening for sleep apnea during their visits with keratoconus patients. If you have keratoconus, you may want to consider undergoing an OSA screening as a result of this indication that you may be at higher risk for this potentially serious health concern.

The most common treatment for OSA is a therapeutic intervention called positive airway pressure (CPAP) in which the patient wears a facial mask attached to a breathing machine that pumps a continuous stream of air in order to keep airways open during sleep. Rebecca Petris, author of the Dry Eye Digest, recently shared a research study that indicated dry eye and adverse corneal surface issues resulted from the use of CPAP machines for the treatment of OSA. A related clinical case study and numerous self-reported incidents of CPAP users experiencing dry eye points to concerns about possible side effects that CPAP users should be aware of while undergoing treatment for OSA.