January 07, 2020
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CPAP therapy may lower risk of diabetic retinopathy

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Researchers found that the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy was lower in patients with sleep apnea who were compliant with continuous positive airway pressure therapy, according to a retrospective cross-sectional review.

The study reviewed all type 2 diabetic patients being treated for sleep apnea who visited the Pulmonary and Eye Clinics at VA Maine between 2011 and 2016. Eligible patients were monitored for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) compliance and diabetic retinopathy during a 12-month period.

“The results of this study show that diabetic retinopathy was significantly less prevalent in a continuous positive airway pressure-compliant group than in a group noncompliant with continuous positive airway pressure therapy,” James Patrick Smith, OD, MS, FAAO, of Veterans Affairs Maine Health Care System in Augusta, Maine, and colleagues wrote.

According to the study, of the 321 patient charts evaluated, 63 patients (19.6%) had diabetic retinopathy and 258 (80.4%) did not. Of those with diabetic retinopathy, 51 had a mild version of the disease, seven were moderate, two were severe and three had proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

The average CPAP wear time and glomerular filtration rate greater than 60 mL/min were significantly higher in the group without retinopathy. In addition, hemoglobin A1c level, diabetes mellitus duration, insulin use and hypertension were significantly higher in the group with retinopathy.

The authors concluded that the CPAP-compliant group was less likely to have diabetic retinopathy, and that continued CPAP compliance might benefit sleep apnea patients with type 2 diabetes in lowering the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy.

“Although our study does not demonstrate causation, it does provide evidence that continuous positive airway pressure compliance is associated with lower prevalence of diabetic retinopathy,” they wrote. “These findings provide further evidence of the benefits of continuous positive airway pressure use in the management of obstructive sleep apnea-related comorbidities.” by Erin T. Welsh


Disclosure: Smith reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the full study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.