Study Finds Link Between Keratoconus and Sleep Apnea

Keratoconus and Sleep ApneaA recent study found that people with the corneal disorder known as keratoconus are more likely to have sleep apnea than those without keratoconus. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by frequent pauses in breath, and it has been linked to several life-threatening medical conditions like heart disease and hypertension.

This study could be important for people with keratoconus that also feel tired all the time. They may believe they are drowsy because keratoconus makes their vision blurry or hazy but in actuality, they have an undiagnosed sleep disorder.

Keratoconus at a Glance

A normal, healthy cornea is spherical, like a basketball. But a cornea affected by keratoconus takes on an oval, cone-like shape, more like a football. While it is not entirely clear what causes the gradual thinning and bulging of the cornea, the cornea’s distorted shape prevents light rays entering the eye to properly focus on the retina. As a result, vision can be blurry and distorted.

Sleep Apnea at a Glance

The most common type of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the muscles and tissues in the back of the throat collapse, partially obstructing the airway. These cessations in breath last 10 seconds or more and can happen repeatedly throughout the night.

People with sleep apnea can suffer from extreme daytime drowsiness; also, they are at a heightened risk of heart disease, stroke, hypertension and other serious medical disorders.

Study Details

In the study, which was published in the medical journal Cornea, a group of Italian researchers looked at 50 patients with keratoconus, 19 of whom experienced more than five occurrences of obstructed breathing per hour in the course of a single night.

The researchers found some commonalities between the patients that had both keratoconus and sleep apnea compared to those without sleep apnea:

  1. The patients were older.
  2. They had a higher body mass index.
  3. They had a higher degree of astigmatism.

Although the team couldn’t identify the exact relationship between keratoconus and sleep apnea, some doctors believe the eye reveals clues to the general health of a patient. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that anyone with keratoconus discuss sleep apnea with their doctor and undergo a screening if they present certain risk factors.

If you have any questions about keratoconus or another eye-related disorder, Island Eye Surgicenter is here to help. Please call or email us today.


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