Screening for sleep apnea in people with gut diseases: a path towards enhanced long-term health

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A new study led by Flinders University suggests screening for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a prevalent and debilitating respiratory condition, in individuals with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

OSA is associated with a myriad of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, obesity, Parkinson’s disease, anxiety, depression, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

IBD is a chronic inflammatory condition that has been increasing in prevalence worldwide.

A Novel Screening Tool

Flinders University sleep researcher Dr. Alex Barnes and his team are developing an innovative tool to screen for sleep apnea, aiming to help IBD patients manage OSA alongside their existing health challenges, such as abdominal pain, daytime sleepiness, obesity, and other long-term risks.

Their study of 670 IBS patients found a moderate to high risk of OSA in roughly 22.6% of the participants.

Chapter 3: Recommendations and Future Directions

The findings, published in the Crohn’s and Colitis 360 journal, recommend the adoption of an accessible OSA screening tool in IBD clinics.

This would enable referring patients with suspected OSA to sleep specialists. Co-author Dr. Réme Mountifield emphasizes the importance of identifying OSA patients to screen for associated cardiovascular complications and initiate suitable treatments, like continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).

Addressing the Undiagnosed Problem

While the study’s online questionnaire had certain limitations, international research confirms that OSA is more common in IBD patients.

Consequently, a simple screening tool using typical IBD clinic parameters could be a critical step towards addressing this often undiagnosed issue.

The Vicious Cycle of IBD and Sleep

Disrupted sleep due to associated gastrointestinal symptoms often leads to poor sleep quality in IBD patients.

Active IBD is associated with elevated levels of tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), which may influence the course or severity of OSA.

Undiagnosed and untreated sleep disorders impact the health and well-being of a large proportion of Australians.

Therefore, integrating sleep apnea screening into IBD management could help improve the long-term health and quality of life of patients living with these conditions.

If you care about gut health, please read studies about a major cause of leaky gut, fatty liver disease, and eating nuts may help reduce risks of the gut lesion and cancer.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that anti-inflammatory diet could help prevent fatty liver disease, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.

The study was published in Crohn’s & Colitis 360.

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