Type 2 Diabetes and OSA Can Lead to Blindness


A recent study claims if you have both Type 2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea, you’re at a high risk of developing an eye disease that causes blindness. The disease, diabetic retinopathy, is a common condition among type 1 & 2 diabetes patients.

 

type 2 diabates symptom diagram


Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood sugar levels to rise higher than normal. This is also called hyperglycemia, and is more common than type 1 diabetes.

Your body is insulin resistant, meaning it does not use the insulin properly. In the beginning, your pancreas makes excess insulin to make up the difference, but over time it isn’t able to keep up. Eventually your pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep your blood sugar at a normal level.

  • Increased thirst: Excess sugar building up in your bloodstream causes fluid to be pulled from the tissues. This forces you to feel an excess sensation of thirst
  • Increased hunger: Without enough insulin to move sugar into your cells, your muscles and organs become depleted of energy.
  • Weight loss: You will notice that even excess eating will not curb your hunger, nor will it stop the weight loss. Alternative fuel is pulled from muscle and fat throughout your body, because type 2 diabetes causes your body to not properly metabolize glucose (sugar).
  • Fatigue: Low blood sugar can lead to you feeling tired and sluggish.
  • Blurred vision: High blood sugar causes fluid to be pulled from your eyes, affecting your ability to focus.
  • Slow-healing sores or frequent infections: Type 2 diabetes slows healing and lowers your resistance to infections.
  • Dark spots on skin: Dark patches on your skin may be a sign of insulin resistance.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

 

airway of sleep apnea diagram

 

33 million people across the US have sleep apnea, over half of which are unaware. OSA causes episodes throughout the night when you stop breathing. An episode is called an “apnea.” Multiple apnea’s during the night makes your blood-oxygen level dip below normal levels and lead to more severe complications. Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Daytime fatigue and sleepiness
  • Abnormally loud snoring
  • Noticeable periods of not breathing while sleeping
  • Waking to gasping or choking
  • Morning headache (due to lack of oxygen in your blood)
  • Trouble concentrating on tasks during the day
  • Mood changes, such as depression or irritability
  • High blood pressure

Diabetic Retinopathy

diabetic retinopathy diagram

 

Also known as “Diabetic eye disease”, diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that specifically affects people with diabetes. This condition is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 20. The high blood sugar related to diabetes causes damage to the blood vessels in your retina, leading to blindness. Diabetic eye disease progresses in 4 stages:

  • Mild nonproliferative retinopathy: small areas of swelling grow in the blood vessels of the retina. This leads to blood being leaked into your eye or fluid into your retina, blurring your vision.
  • Moderate nonproliferative retinopathy: swelling blood vessels begin to lose their ability to transport blood. As a result, this phase may begin to change the appearance of your retina.
  • Severe nonproliferative retinopathy: the swelling, blood and fluid blocks more blood vessels. By this point, the blood has begun to clot, preventing nutrients from reaching areas of your retina. The blood-deprived areas begin to secrete growths that signal the retina to grow new blood vessels to replace the damaged ones.
  • Proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR): the new blood vessels become weak and fragile. Additionally, the scar tissue from the old blood vessels can contract and tear the retina. This causes retinal detachment, the separation of the retina from underlying tissue at the back of your eyeball. Retinal detachment may result in permanent blindness.

Study in Question

A study done by the University of Birmingham determined that if you have both Type 2 Diabetes and Obstructive Sleep Apnea, you are at a higher risk of developing diabetic eye disease. This was the first study that researched the impact of OSA on diabetic eye disease. A Physician, Dr Tahrani, said of the study:

“Firstly, we showed that sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy was more common in patients with both Type 2 diabetes and OSA compared to those with Type 2 diabetes but without OSA.”

“However, more importantly, we have shown that patients with OSA and Type 2 diabetes, compared to those with diabetes only, are at increased risk of developing advanced diabetic retinopathy over a period of three years and seven months.”

 

The results showed that the diabetic eye disease presence was higher in patients with OSA (42.9%) compared to those without OSA (24.1%).


Seek Guidance

Type 1 & 2 diabetes are becoming quite a nuisance, especially in the US. When paired with OSA the two are potentially disastrous.  It is crucial that you seek out medical guidance if you have, or believe to have, one or both of these conditions! Keep up with the maintenance of both diabetes and OSA and hopefully, as a result, you will hopefully never encounter diabetic eye disease.


References

  • Association, American Diabetes. “Type 2 Diabetes.” American Diabetes Association, American Diabetes Association, 2018, www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/type-2/.
  • Clinic, Mayo. “Type 2 Diabetes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 3 Jan. 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-2-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20351193.
  • “Diabetic Retinopathy, Eye Disease Specialist · Top Eye Doctor · NYC.” Manhattan Eye Doctors & Best Rated Specialists in NYC, New York Medical Marketing, 2018, www.eyedoctorophthalmologistnyc.com/treatment/diabetic-retinopathy-eye-disease/.
  • Healthwise INC. “Obstructive Sleep Apnea.” uofmhealth.org, www.uofmhealth.org/conditions-treatments/brain-neurological-conditions/obstructive-sleep-apnea
  • Manhattan Eye Specialists. “Diabetic Retinopathy, Eye Disease.”  eyedoctorophthalmologistnyc, www.eyedoctorophthalmologistnyc.com/treatment/diabetic-retinopathy-eye-disease/
  • Sepalika.com. “Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes.” sepalika.com, 14 Sep. 2017, www.sepalika.com/type-2-diabetes/symptoms-of-diabetes-type-2/
  • University of Birmingham. “Sufferers of both Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea could lose eyesight within four years.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 July 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170703120936.htm>.

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