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Study Reports Sleep Apnea Tied to Asthma

Update Date: May 20, 2013 10:23 AM EDT

A recent study discovered that sleep apnea treatment, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), could help improve glucose levels for patients with prediabetes, a condition in which blood sugar levels are above average but below the cutoff point for type II diabetes. Although this study find a possible benefit of sleep apnea treatment, another study presented this week looked at a new possible cause of sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder that causes poor sleeping patterns due to breathing abnormalities. The long-term study discovered that people with asthma appeared to have a higher risk for sleep apnea.

The researchers from the University of Wisconsin evaluated the data from the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health. The data was composed from about 1,500 people between 30 and 60 years old, who enrolled in the study in 1998. The study lasted eight years, allowing the researchers time to look for any correlations between asthma and the development of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The researchers looked at 773 participants specifically who did not have OSA at the beginning of the study. At the end of the Wisconsin Cohort study, 45 participants had developed asthma. These subjects were projected to have a 48 percent increased risk of getting OSA. However, the researchers acknowledged that this sample group was too small to allow them to make a more general estimation.

"Forty-eight percent represents a large difference. This is one result that calls for a follow-up study," said Paul Peppard, Ph.D. Peppard was one of the researchers of the Cohort study and is an assistant professor of population health sciences at the university. "If confirmed by a larger study with more asthma cases, the finding would have important clinical relevance."

The researchers discovered that for participants who had childhood asthma, their likelihood in developing OSA was 2.34 times higher than people without childhood asthma. Not only did childhood asthma affect one's chances of suffering from sleep apnea, the researchers also found that the duration of asthma influenced OSA. The researchers reported that every five-years that the person suffers from asthma translated to a 10 percent increase of getting OSA. The researchers controlled for variables, such as smoking, alcohol intake, body mass index (BMI) and nasal congestion. The researchers and other experts stated that research looking into birth and child cohorts could provide more insight into this link between asthma and sleep apnea.

The findings will be presented at the American Thoracic Society

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