A recent comprehensive sleep study on people with post-concussion syndrome showed that 78% were diagnosed with sleep apnea.
What came first: the concussion or sleep apnea? Determining the answer can be difficult. People who don’t get enough sleep already exhibit some of the symptoms of post-concussion syndrome even when they haven’t had one.
What we do know is that there is a connection between sleep apnea and concussion. Sleep apnea affects the recovery from a concussion, and at the same time, the condition may result from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Where does vision come in?
Sleep Apnea and Concussions
For those having sustained a concussion, sleep is very important for a speedy and thorough recovery. A poor night’s sleep, as in the case of sleep apnea, may lead to impaired decision-making, cognitive loss, and symptoms of depression—all of which can interrupt the recovery process.
Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea, is caused by a physical collapse or blockage of the upper airway that interrupts breathing during sleep. This also reduces blood and oxygen flow to the brain, making it difficult for those with a concussion to recover.
A lesser known type of apnea is central sleep apnea. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, this type is caused by a dysfunction in the brain that regulates breathing and sleep, which could also be affected by a TBI.
Sleep Apnea and Vision
As we all know, getting a good night’s sleep is essential to good health. There are a number of eye conditions that are exacerbated by poor sleep patterns and therefore may be associated with sleep apnea.
- Floppy eyelid syndrome
- Nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy
- Swelling of the optic nerve
- Retinal conditions
Getting your eyes checked regularly is important as it allows your eye doctor to rule out any eye disorders and prevent potential vision loss. This is all the more important if you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Concussions and Vision
Concussions can have a significant impact on the functioning of the visual system. Post-trauma vision syndrome is a group of symptoms that cause eye coordination problems, dizziness, and blurred vision after a concussion.
The symptoms of post-trauma vision syndrome can include:
- Double vision
- Focusing problems
- Problems with walking and stride
Severe concussions can cause double vision and blindness, while mild concussions can affect vision and cause visual dysfunction.
How a Neuro-Optometrist Can Help
Neuro-optometrists can help post-TBI patients in ways that other health care providers may not be able to.
Neuro-optometry deals with how the visual system impacts daily functioning. By training the brain to control and communicate with the eyes more effectively, symptoms like headaches and dizziness can be significantly reduced or disappear altogether.
If you have experienced a concussion or suspect you may have sleep apnea, contact West Orange Family Eyecare to follow up on a diagnosis and treatment for any vision problems you may be having due to either condition.
West Orange Family Eyecare serves patients from Montclair, Livingston, Newark, and Bloomfield, all throughout New Jersey.
Q: What’s the connection between sleep apnea, concussion, and your vision?
- A: After sustaining a concussion, you may begin to experience sleep apnea. This not only affects the healing process but your vision as well.
- A: Yes. Neuro-optometric rehabilitation therapy can retrain the brain to relieve dizziness, headaches, double vision, and other TBI-related problems.