Scientists at Hokkaido University have successfully measured the eye pressure of sleeping patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), finding an unexpected correlation with glaucoma.
Glaucoma is thought to be a disease in which the optic nerve sustains damage due to increased eye pressure, resulting in a restricted visual field. In addition to strokes and cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks, people with OSA are prone to suffer from glaucoma at a rate about 10 times higher than non-OSA sufferers.
However, it has been technically difficult to continuously measure eye pressure in sleeping subjects. To address the problem, the team employed a special sensor akin to a contact lens to monitor pressure changes when OSA patients’ breathing repeatedly stopped during sleep.
Normally, intrathoracic pressure is known to rise if people stop breathing (exhaling), resulting in higher eye pressure. The study found unexpectedly that the eye pressure dropped when subjects stopped breathing. The subjects tended to stop inhaling, not exhaling, due to airway closure, which should lead to lower intrathoracic pressure. The subjects also experienced hypoxic effects, as cessations in breathing cause blood oxygen saturation levels to drop, possibly triggering optic nerve damage that can lead to glaucoma.
The study shows that the optic nerve could be damaged due to hypoxia without a spike in eye pressure, a finding that could help unravel the details of glaucoma sufferers with normal eye pressure levels.
The study is published in Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science.
Having worked in the sleep industry for the last 11 years, this correlation with sleep apnea and glaucoma has slowly been recognized by the optometrist. But this group has found no way to implement a screening program for their patient base that will generate their practice extra revenue. I have suggested including the epworth and stop bang scale in the patient’s checkup, but it is always the question. “How do I charge for this and how do I make money” Any ideas??
While I understand the need to try to find a business model for optometrists to capitalize on OSA testing, that is not compatible with OD licensing.
Instead, why not start a referral program to specific local sleep care physicians, making SURE they know you are referring them
It becomes more likely they will refer more new patients back to you.