People with type 2 diabetes who have trouble sleeping are more at risk of eye disease, foot problems, and amputation, preliminary research suggests.
There are around 3.3 million people with type 2 diabetes in the UK, including an estimated 850,000 people who don’t realise they have the condition.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham looked at 231 people with type 2 diabetes of whom 149 had obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), and found that the prevalence of severe retinopathy was twice as high (48%) among those with OSA as it was among those without (20%).
In a separate study, researchers found that OSA was linked to nerve damage, which in extreme cases can lead to amputation. They looked at 230 people with type 2 diabetes of whom 148 had OSA. They found that 60% of those with OSA had nerve damage compared with 22% of those without the sleep disorder.
In both studies, the link between OSA and the complications in people with type 2 diabetes was independent of age, gender, ethnicity, blood pressure, blood glucose levels, smoking and cholesterol.
Dr Iain Frame, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “It’s not new to say that many people with type 2 diabetes have this sleeping disorder, but it is the first time we’ve seen researchers look at a link between this sleeping problem and damage to eyes and nerves. It seems that people with type 2 diabetes could be more at risk of those complications if they have trouble sleeping than if they don’t.”
He added that a common link between this sleeping disorder and type 2 diabetes is being overweight, and that both can be helped by eating a healthy diet, losing a bit of weight and being more physically active.
Dr Abd Tahrani, who led both pieces of research, said: “OSA is very common in patients with type 2 diabetes—much higher than in the general population. [And] our results suggest that OSA is not an innocent bystander in patients with type 2 diabetes and might contribute to morbidities associated with this condition.”
Obstructive sleep apnoea and sight threatening retinopathy: A novel association in patients with Type 2 diabetes; Obstructive sleep apnoea is independently associated with peripheral neuropathy in patients with Type 2 diabetes
Diabetic Medicine: Abstracts of the Diabetes UK Annual Professional Conference (30 March to 1 April 2011), Volume 28, supplement 1