Obstructive sleep apnea, nocturnal hypoxemia, and retinal microvasculature: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study

Nathan Hoeft, Kelsie M. Full, Jeffrey R. Misialek, Kamakshi Lakshminarayan, Srishti Shrestha, Jennifer A. Deal, Pamela L. Lutsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objectives: Retinal microvascular pathology (RMP) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) are both cardiovascular disease risk factors. Limited data exists on their interrelationship. We tested the hypotheses that OSA and nocturnal hypoxemia would be associated with RMP and vessel calibers. Methods: We conducted a quasi-cross-sectional analysis of 1625 participants in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Sleep Heart Health Study. Participants completed in-home polysomnography monitoring (1996–1998) and were categorized by OSA severity (apnea–hypopnea index: <5, 5–14.9, and ≥15) and proportion of total sleep time with oxygen saturation < 90% (T90). Retinal photography (1993–1995) was used to assess RMP and measure vascular diameters (central retinal arteriolar equivalent [CRAE] and central retinal venular equivalent [CRVE]). Logistic and linear models were adjusted for demographics, behaviors, and BMI. Results: Of the participants, 19% had OSA (AHI > 15) and 4% had RMP. Severe OSA was not associated with RMP [OR (95% CI): 1.08 (0.49 to 2.38)] or CRAE in adjusted models. OSA severity showed a positive linear relationship with CRVE; adjusted mean CRVE for those with OSA was 195.8 μm compared to 193.2 μm for those without OSA (Ptrend = 0.03). T90 was strongly associated with CRVE, but not with RMP or CRAE. Adjusted mean CRVE for T90 ≥ 5% was 199.0 and 192.9 for T90 < 1% (ptrend < 0.0001). Conclusions: OSA and T90 were not associated with RMP or CRAE. However, both OSA and T90 ≥ 5% were associated with wider venules, which may be early and indicative changes of increased inflammation and future risk of stroke and CHD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberzpae004
JournalSLEEP Advances
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Sleep Research Society.


  • nocturnal hypoxemia
  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • retinal calibers
  • retinal microvasculature
  • retinopathy

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


Dive into the research topics of 'Obstructive sleep apnea, nocturnal hypoxemia, and retinal microvasculature: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this