Link Between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Autoimmune Diseases Found

by Aishwarya Nair on Nov 27 2020 6:29 PM

Link Between Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Autoimmune Diseases Found
Researchers at the University of Gregoria have thrown light on the association of obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) with auto immune diseases.
Sleep apnea is a disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. There are several types of sleep apnea. OSA is one of the most common types of sleep apnea. This type of apnea occurs when your throat muscles intermittently relax and block your airway during sleep.

Immune system disorders result in either low or over activity of the body’s immune system. Autoimmune diseases are a group of disorders where in the body's immune system attacks healthy cells in the body (ex. Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis etc). The immune system cannot differentiate between self and non self cells.

The study led by Bradley Phillips , shows that OSA increases the risk for auto immune diseases. The treatment for OSA is a continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP , which pumps air through a mask to keep the airways open. About 40 % of patients tolerate CPAP well.

OSA damages the health of 35 % of Americans thus resulting in increased risk for several autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis etc.

A team of researchers studied the four cytokines (category of small proteins involved in cell signalling) which are associated with autoimmune diseases. Three groups of adults were evaluated - patients with untreated OSA, patients with OSA who were receiving treatment, and people who did not have OSA.

The results showed abnormal levels of the four cytokines in patients with untreated OSA . This throws light on the link between poor sleep , inadequate oxygen supply and the production of cytokines.

This study is being continued further and the researchers are looking for associations of sleep apnea with neurodegenerative , cardiovascular and renal disorders.

“The relationship between OSA and other diseases is always complex to study. OSA in adults is commonly first diagnosed in midlife, but increases with age. With increased age, you are also at risk for other diseases, and it’s very challenging for clinicians and researchers to determine if it’s OSA alone that causes other disorders, or if OSA only worsens the severity and progression of an underlying disease. In the case of high blood pressure, we know untreated OSA can cause hypertension and make blood pressure drug therapy ineffective. If obstructive sleep apnea is a key player, then it should be evaluated and treated along with other conditions”, said Phillips, professor in the College of Pharmacy.