Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition characterized by complete or partial blockage of the airways during sleep when the muscles become weaker.
It is commonly diagnosed in people who snore or appear to stop breathing or make choking sounds during sleep, and those who are obese in particular are more likely to experience it.
In a recent study from the University of Warwick, researchers found people who have obstructive sleep apnea could be at increased risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19.
The conclusion is drawn from a systematic review of studies that reported outcomes for COVID-19 patients that were also diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.
The study highlights the need to further examine the impact of the virus on those with the sleep condition and to better identify those currently undiagnosed with it.
The study is published in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews. One author is Dr. Michelle Miller.
Many of the risk factors and comorbidities linked to sleep apnea, such as diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure, are similar to those linked to poor COVID-19 outcomes.
However, the researchers wanted to test whether obstructive sleep apnea brings additional risk of COVID-19.
They looked at 18studies about obstructive sleep apnea and COVID-19, of these eight were mainly related to the risk of death from COVID-19, and ten were related to diagnosis, treatment, and management of sleep apnea.
Although few studies of obstructive sleep apnea in COVID-19 had been performed at the time, there is evidence to suggest that many patients who presented to intensive care had obstructive sleep apnea.
In addition, in diabetic patients, it may confer an increased risk that is independent of other risk factors.
In one large study in patients that had diabetes, who were hospitalized for COVID-19, those being treated for obstructive sleep apnea were at 2.8 times greater risk of dying on the seventh day after hospital admission.
With obesity rates and other related risk factors on the increase, the researchers also believe that rates of obstructive sleep apnea are also increasing.
Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) has been shown to have some beneficial effects on these mechanisms and it is important that treatment is optimized for these people.
The researchers feel it is important that those diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea are aware of the potential additional risk and are taking appropriate precautions to reduce their exposure to the virus.
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