Diabetes: Sleep Apnea Increases Risk of Amputation, Blindness In Diabetics

PEOPLE with Type 2 diabetes who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are more at risk of losing their sight due to severe retinopathy, as well as foot problems and possible amputation because of neuropathy, according to new research in the UK.

Retinopathy affects the blood vessels supplying the retina – the seeing part of the eye. Blood vessels in the retina of the eye can become blocked, leaky or grow haphazardly. This damage gets in the way of the light passing through to the retina and if left untreated can damage vision.

Neuropathy is nerve damage and a long term complication of diabetes that can lead to foot ulcers and slow-healing wounds which, if they become infected, can result in amputation.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep. The onset of OSA is most common in people aged 35 to 54 years old, although it can affect people of all ages, including children. The condition often goes undiagnosed. Only one in four people with obstructive sleep apnea are diagnosed with the condition.

Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “We already know that there is a high prevalence of OSA in people with Type 2 diabetes. However, this is the first time that the link between OSA and retinopathy and neuropathy in people with Type 2 diabetes has been examined.

This research suggests that if someone with Type 2 diabetes also has this sleeping disorder they are more at risk of developing these serious complications compared to someone with the condition who does not have OSA.

“As being overweight is a risk factor for both OSA and Type 2 diabetes, this is yet another reason to highlight the importance of good weight management through a healthy diet and regular physical activity. In people with Type 2 diabetes, the increasing severity of OSA is associated with poorer blood glucose control and the treatment of sleep disorders (in this case by losing weight) has the potential to improve diabetes control and energy levels.”

Researchers from the University of Birmingham looked at 231 people with Type 2 diabetes of whom 149 had OSA, a sleep disorder caused by disturbed breathing. They found there were twice as many people with severe retinopathy (48 percent) in the group with OSA compared to the group without OSA (20 percent). Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the UK’s working-age population.

In a separate study, the researchers found that OSA was also linked to neuropathy. They looked at 230 people with Type 2 diabetes of whom 148 had OSA. They found that 60 percent of the group with OSA also had neuropathy compared to 22 percent in the group without OSA.

In both studies, the association between OSA and the two diabetes complications in people with Type 2 diabetes was independent of age, gender, ethnicity, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, smoking and cholesterol.

Dr Abd Tahrani, who led the research, said: “Our work highlights several important issues. Our results emphasized what is already known – that OSA is very common in patients with Type 2 diabetes, much higher than OSA prevalence in the general population.

“Furthermore, our results suggest that OSA is not an innocent bystander in patients with Type 2 diabetes and might contribute to morbidities associated with this condition. Whether OSA treatment has any impact on these complications will need to be determined”

Source: Diabetes UK

Tags: Health, Living, Type 2 Diabetes, Retinopathy, Sleep Apnea, Neuropathy, Amputation, Nerve Damage

 

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