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Sleep Apnea May Contribute to Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis

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Sleep apnea is a medical condition wherein there are breathing pauses, shallow breathing, and reduced ventilation during sleep. This problem may give rise to a lot of complications such as hypertension, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Recent news says that sleep apnea may contribute to worsening fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis. But is this true? Read on.

Sleep Apnea

The breathing pauses in sleep apnea can last for a few seconds to a few minutes. They can occur repetitively, about 30 times or more within one hour while you are sleeping. This is usually a chronic or a long term condition that affects your sleep. Sleep apnea leads to poor sleep quality and may give rise to frequent awakenings at night and excessive daytime sleepiness. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, wherein the airway collapses and becomes obstructed so that air cannot move in freely during sleep. This further causes breathing pauses or shallow breathing. While air enters the obstructed airway passages, it brings forth a noise caused by the vibration of the walls of the airways known as snoring. Obstructive sleep apnea is usually found in overweight people, however it can also occur in people of normal weight because of anatomic deformities of the throat and neck.

The other type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is a less common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the brain doesn't send proper signals to the airways and the breathing muscles. Thus there is a lack of effort for breathing. Central sleep apnea is more common in people who have certain medical conditions or in people who use certain medications.

Sleep apnea when untreated can cause numerous medical consequences. It can raise blood pressure and predispose you to have heart attacks, obesity stroke and diabetes. This breathing problem can also worsen heart failure and makes your heart beat irregularly. It also increases your chance of having vehicular accidents, especially when you are driving. This is why sleep apnea needs to be treated as soon as possible. It can be treated with mouthpieces, lifestyle changes, breathing devices and surgery

Sleep Apnea and Multiple Sclerosis

Recently, a new study has found out that sleep apnea is more common among patients with multiple sclerosis and may contribute to their fatigue. This study done by researchers from University of Michigan Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep Disorders Centers utilized data from 195 people with multiple sclerosis who have completed sleep questionnaires and were assessed for insomnia, daytime sleepiness, fatigue and sleep apnea. The results which were published in the Feb. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that one-fifth of the patients with multiple sclerosis have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and more than half were found to have elevated risks for this condition. The researchers also found out that multiple sclerosis patients who have sleep apnea also have more severe fatigue.

One of the manifestations of multiple sclerosis is fatigue. Multiple sclerosis is a disabling disease which attacks the nerves and the other parts of the central nervous system. This medical condition may give rise to symptoms such as numbness in the limbs and more serious complications such as paralysis or loss of vision. The researchers have found out that sleep apnea is a contributor to fatigue already experienced by patients with multiple sclerosis. This is why people with multiple sclerosis should be tested for concomitant sleep apnea and they should be treated if they were found out to have obstructive sleep apnea. Fatigue in patients with multiples sclerosis can lower quality of life in these patients.

To know more about sleep apnea, you can read our other articles on this site.