DR. DONALD JOHNSON: Osteoporosis and sleep apnea

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If you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you may have an increase in the risk of having osteoporosis. This is particularly true among females and older people. This information is in a study shown in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM).

OSA is a sleep disorder where there are interruptions (10 seconds long up to 100 seconds long) in breathing and therefore in oxygen during sleep. And these can occur five times per hour of sleep up to over 100 times per hour! A patient’s airway becomes collapsed during sleep. Untreated, OSA can increase risk for stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease.

These sleep interruptions caused by OSA can harm most of the body’s systems. That includes the skeletal system — the bones. In OSA, the body is deprived of oxygen and this can cause weakened bones, increase the risk of osteoporosis, and lead to broken bones, higher medical expenses, reduced quality of one’s life, and even death.

This retrospective study tracked the treatment of over 1,300 people that had been diagnosed with OSA. The researchers compared the rate at which osteoporosis was diagnosed in the OSA group to over twenty thousand people without OSA.

It was found that osteoporosis existed 2.7 times more often in people with OSA that in those without OSA. Females and older people were the most common.

As more patients have been found to have a diagnosis of osteoporosis, it would be prudent to test for OSA in those patients. In fact, it would be prudent for everyone to be tested for OSA since it is treatable and if left untreated can cause so many problems. If one pays attention to the link between OSA and osteoporosis, it may just be that treating the OSA may slow or prevent osteoporosis. And the test for OSA is simple. Home sleep testing units are available and a patient can be tested in the comfort of their own home.

As far as treatment of OSA is concerned, oral appliances do a fantastic job and are tolerated by just about every patient that uses one. CPAP is also used to treat OSA but many patients cannot tolerate the mask on their face all night.

The journal reference for the study is Yu-Li Chen, Shih-Feng Weng, Yuan-Chi Shen, Chien-Wen Chou, Chwen-Yi Yang, Jhi-Joung Wang, Kai-Jen Tien. Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Risk of Osteoporosis: A Population-Based Cohort Study in Taiwan. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 2014; jc 2014-1718.

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Dr. Donald Johnson founded Northwest Treatment Center for Snoring & Sleep Apnea in Coeur d’Alene to help patients stop their snoring and live free with no limits! Obstructive sleep apnea is usually able to be treated with a small oral appliance. Dr. Johnson’s office is at 114 W. Neider Ave., near Costco. The website for more information is www.NWSleepDoc.com and the office phone is 208-667-4551. Schedule a free consultation appointment today!

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