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Study Finds Link Between Keratoconus and Sleep Apnea

Submitted by Dr. Vincent Basilice on December 28, 2018
Keratoconus linked to sleep apnea

Keratoconus is a condition in which the cornea — the clear outermost layer of the eye normally shaped like a dome — begins to thin and starts to bulge. Once this occurs, the light rays entering the eye become distorted, making everyday activities like reading and driving difficult.

In a recent study, researchers found that people with the condition are also at higher risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition characterized by cessations of breathing during sleep.

While most people with keratoconus are in their teens or twenties, older people are susceptible to it as well. And for people with the condition who are in the vicinity of 50 years old, there appears to be a connection with OSA.

Recent Study Linking Keratoconus and OSA

In an April 2018 study published in the journal Cornea, Italian researchers tracked the sleep of 33 men and 17 women with keratoconus and found that 19 of them (13 men and 6 women) experienced an average of five obstructed breathing events per night. Those that did were older (approximately 50 years old) than the patients who did not experience OSA-related events (39 years old on average).

While it is not clear what exact factors link the two disorders, multiple studies have confirmed that there is a correlation between the two. One ophthalmologist, Oregon-based J. Kevin McKinney, MD, hypothesizes that the connection may be evidence that eye health is an indicator of overall health.

Treatment Options

The Cornea study findings, along with similar findings from a 2016 University of Michigan study and others, suggest that people with either OSA or keratoconus should be diligent about checking for the other condition. In addition to OSA, men, African-Americans, Latinos, and people with Down syndrome may be more susceptible to keratoconus than others.

While there is no cure for keratoconus, treatment options are available to slow the progression of the condition. Early detection of keratoconus is advantageous as it is easier to manage in its beginning stages.

At TOC Eye, we give the gift of sight that enables our patients to dramatically improve the quality of their lives. We invite you to discuss your eye health and vision concerns with our expert team of ophthalmologists by contacting our Long Island office today.

Posted Under: Keratoconus