Have you heard of floppy eyelid syndrome (FES)? We see patients every week who are affected by it. Even though it can lead to chronic irritation of the eyes, conjunctivitis, and dryness, there’s an even more concerning aspect of FES: It’s strongly correlated with a condition called obstructive sleep apnea.
Characterized by upper and lower eyelids that become loose and rubbery, FES causes the upper eyelids to flip over easily, especially while sleeping. If your lid is flipping over while you sleep, it’s not protecting the eye, and that exposure can lead to itchiness, irritation, discharge, or an infection. Another telltale sign of FES is if your eyelashes are droopy or hang down at a strange angle. The floppy eyelid does not maintain the proper orientation of the lashes along with the chronic pressure from the pillow, while sleeping, redirects the lashes.
Studies have shown a strong correlation between those who have FES and obstructive sleep apnea. One recent study found that 90% of participants who had FES also had obstructive sleep apnea, which puts them at a higher risk of a stroke, heart attack, cancer, atrial fibrillation, high blood pressure, diabetes, and dementia. Sleep apnea also leads to chronic fatigue, which puts you at a greater risk of falling asleep while driving and other dangers.
Both FES and obstructive sleep apnea are underdiagnosed. FES can be treated with an
ointment or the use of a protective eye covering while you sleep. If Dr. Scott diagnoses you with FES, he’ll also recommend that you contact your internist to schedule a sleep study to check for sleep apnea and learn about potential treatments. It can be hard to know if you have apnea, but if your significant other tells you that you snore loudly or stop breathing, this is a strong and dangerous sign.
If you’d like to do a self-assessment to evaluate your risk of sleep apnea, you can visit StopBang.ca/osa/screening.php. If you have concerns about FES, you can schedule a consultation with Dr. Scott by calling (703) 620-4300 or visiting EyePlasticMD.com/request-an-appointment.