Research

Sleep apnoea linked to diabetic macular oedema

New research has drawn a link between severe sleep apnoea and diabetic macular oedema, firming up the connection between the two conditions.

The effects of sleep apnoea are widespread due to the way the condition disrupts sleep patterns and causes blood oxygen levels to rapidly drop, injuring blood vessels and increasing the risk of hypertension, heart attacks, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

It is also believed that sleep apnoea may contribute to diabetic retinopathy by increasing insulin resistance, elevating inflammation and raising blood pressure, subsequently damaging blood vessels in the eye.

According to the team from Taiwan’s Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, 8-year data from patients diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy indicates severe sleep apnoea can lead to increased rates of diabetic macular oedema.

The rate of severe sleep apnoea was found to be significantly higher in patients with diabetic macular oedema (80.6%), compared with those without diabetic macular oedema (45.5%). Additionally, more severe sleep apnoea led to patients requiring greater management of their macular oedema.

“Based on these results, we hope that more medical professionals will approach sleep apnea as a risk factor for diabetic macular edema,” Dr Juifan Chiang, lead researcher on the project, said.

“This could allow for earlier medical intervention so patients can keep more of their vision and preserve their overall health as much as possible.”

The research was presented at the recent annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.