Sleep Apnoea and Glaucoma

The Link between Obstructive Sleep Apnoea and Glaucoma

Glaucoma is usually characterised by the build-up of pressure within the eye that damages the optic nerve linking the eye to the brain. Other factors, too, can compromise the blood flow to the optic nerve, causing nerve cells to die, resulting in the loss of peripheral vision as the optic nerve struggles to recover. This means that even people with normal or low eye pressure can be susceptible to glaucoma.

These additional risk factors include:

  • migraines
  • atrial fibrillation
  • reduced blood pressure at night.

Recently, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea (OSA) has been added to this list as a potential cause of optic nerve damage. This means that people with OSA have a higher probability of developing glaucoma.1

OSA occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep, due to obstruction of the upper airway. As well as disrupting sleep, it also prevents the body from regulating itself properly in terms of blood flow, including the blood supply to the optic nerve.

The exact way in which OSA can bring about glaucoma is still being researched, however, a definite association has been made between the two conditions.

Good News for Bad Sleepers

The good news is that OSA can be treated and even cured. If you are affected by OSA, you may be already using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine or oral appliance to help improve your breathing while sleeping. Weight loss can cure OSA in some cases where being overweight is a factor in causing the throat obstruction.

Another important thing to be aware of is the importance of having regular eye examinations to check for any signs of damage to your optic nerve that may have occurred during your interrupted sleep.

Glaucoma is a progressive disease and an optometrist can detect the start of symptoms, or your potential to develop the condition, through testing and evaluation during your eye exam.

Early detection of glaucoma can mean that irreversible damage to the eye may be largely prevented with effective treatment, meaning that regular eye checks may potentially save your eyesight.

Assure your eye health with a professional examination today at Insight Optometrists


  1. Glaucoma and obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome.
    Faridi, 0., Park, S. C., Liebmann, J. M. and Ritch, R. (2012)
    Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology, 40: 408-419.