Breathing Disorders Linked? Connections Between Sleep Apnea & Asthma

Breathing Disorders Linked? Connections Between Sleep Apnea & Asthma

It’s an unfortunate reality that most disorders out there have side effects that can put you at risk of developing further problems. This is especially true of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA. When left untreated, OSA is well known in the medical community for putting sufferers at risk of developing far more serious conditions from heart disease and heart attacks to strokes, Type II Diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. 

But while the cardiovascular and other physiological conditions I listed above are well known, some may be surprised to hear that OSA can actually be caused or exacerbated by the common respiratory problem known as asthma. Studies have shown that adults who already struggle with asthma are prone to an increased risk for developing OSA, especially if they have had asthma for a long period of time 

Is There A Link Between Asthma & Sleep Apnea 

The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study did a long-term tracking of roughly 550 men and women. Of the participants, about 15% of participants reported they suffered from asthma. Since 1988, participants were contacted every four years to do a follow-up health questionnaire and overnight, in-lab sleep study (versus a home sleep test). 

In the first follow up visit, the study found that about 27% of those with asthma had newly developed cases of sleep apnea. This was a staggering percentage as only 16% of non-asthma patients developed OSA. Over the course of the entire study, researchers realized that asthma sufferers were at a 40% greater risk of developing sleep apnea than those without asthma. Even more alarming was that, the longer someone suffered from asthma, the more likely they were to develop OSA. 

While it’s important to note that the study was able to make a clear, definable association between asthma and sleep apnea sufferers, it did not yield strong enough results to point to a cause/effect relationship between the two disorders. 

Your Asthma and OSA

If you have asthma and are worried about OSA, you are on the right track. OSA has lots of side effects when left untreated, but you are also at risk of having your asthma exacerbated by OSA––and no one wants their asthma getting worse. 

It’s well-known that acid reflux can either cause or worsen asthma and its nighttime symptoms. When paired with OSA, this is a troubling side effect. Because OSA is known to cause acid reflux––or make it worse––you could be in for some rough nights. OSA compromises the sphincter muscles in your throat & esophagus that are responsible for keeping the acid in your stomach. 

Not only could you be in for a rough night of acid reflux, but you could also be causing an increased buildup of inflammatory chemicals in your bloodstream, potentially affecting the inflammatory chemicals in your lungs that cause asthma attacks. Paired together, OSA can lead to weight gain and obesity which can make your asthma worse. This makes your OSA worse and you enter a pretty terrible respiratory downward spiral.

Getting OSA/Asthma Treatment 

As with any disorder, you need to start treatment as soon as possible in order to see improvements and lessen your potential side-effects. The most common treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP or AutoPAP therapy––you wear a mask at night that provides you with pressurized air that keeps your airways clear and open while you sleep. 

CPAP treatment is known to reverse the more harmful effects of sleep apnea and can also help improve asthma when used over time. CPAP improves acid reflux and, in turn, lessens the amount of inflammatory chemicals in the body that can trigger asthma. CPAP therapy also opens the airways, providing better oxygen during sleep. 

Ultimately, treating your OSA can, in turn, help you control your asthma and prevent it from getting worse over time. 

As with any condition, it’s important to reach out to a testing agency like ApneaMed so you can get the answers and treatment you need as soon as possible. Neither asthma nor sleep apnea has to be a serious problem in your everyday life so long as you take the appropriate steps to manage both conditions properly. Speak with the experts at ApneaMed today for more information on reliable home testing for sleep apnea. 

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