Is there a link between glaucoma and interrupted breathing during sleep?

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Dariusz Wozniak
  • Institute: Hinchingbrooke Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Region: East of England
  • Start date: March 2016
  • End Date: March 2017
  • Priority: Causes
  • Eye Category: Glaucoma


Glaucoma can lead to irreversible sight loss caused by damage to the specialised cable that sends visual signals from eye to brain (the optic nerve). It’s often linked to high pressure fluid in the eye and is treated by lowering this pressure.

However, some people continue to lose vision despite the standard treatment. This means there might be something else at play.

One suggestion is obstructive sleep apnoea. It’s a common condition that involves the upper airway repeatedly closing or becoming narrower during sleep. This interrupts breathing and leads to low oxygen.

Obstructive sleep apnoea may reduce the blood and oxygen supply to the optic nerve, adding to its injuries. But at the moment there is no clear evidence for this so the link to glaucoma is still controversial.

In this study the team is finding out whether obstructive sleep apnoea is more common in people with glaucoma than in people of the same age and sex who don’t have glaucoma. They aim to show whether obstructive sleep apnoea is an important risk factor for glaucoma and whether people at risk of obstructive sleep apnoea can be identified by a simple sleep study and some brief questionnaires.

The results will tell us whether people with glaucoma should be screened for obstructive sleep apnoea. They will also help the team plan a future clinical trial to find out whether treating obstructive sleep apnoea can help slow or stop sight loss from glaucoma.