Eye disease to cause serious sleep disorders

Some eye diseases can trigger serious sleep disorders, a study by doctors in the United States suggests. They say people with damage to their optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, can have problems sleeping. They can have difficulty falling asleep and can wake up at strange times. They can also be sleepy during the day and suffer from insomnia at night. Writing in the journal Ophthalmology, they say the findings highlight the need to treat these patients early.

Dr Russell van Gelder and colleagues at Washington University Medical School in St Louis studied 25 visually impaired young people between the ages of 12 and 20. Half had optic nerve damage while the remainder had other eyesight problems. The researchers compared these volunteers with 12 healthy young people. All of those involved in the study wore a watch-like device for two weeks, which enabled the researchers to monitor their circadian rhythms or body clocks. "The study showed the subjects with optic nerve disease were 20 times more likely to have pathologic levels of daytime sleepiness, as indicated by napping, than the subjects with normal sight," said Dr van Gelder, reports &to=http://www.news.bbc.co.uk' target=_blank>BBC

Recent work has indicated that the retina contains non-visual photoreceptors that communicate with the area of the brain involved in circadian rhythms. Based on their findings, lead author of the study Russell Van Gelder, M.D., from Washington University, says, "Physicians and other health care professionals should be sensitive to the possibility of daytime sleepiness or insomnia, particularly in patients with severe optic nerve disease." Researchers add that these findings also suggest the need to try to maintain any remaining vision in people with optic nerve damage as it plays a crucial role in health and longevity, informs &to=http://www.healthcentral.com' target=_blank>HealthCentral.com

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