Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Here’s a sobering statistic: 24 million American adults have impaired lung function. The main culprit is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 12.7 million Americans have this progressive form of lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. The number one factor that causes COPD to develop is smoking, and number two is environmental pollutants. Now add to the mix, a COPD sufferer who also has obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and breathing becomes a struggle 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. OSA is defined as a stoppage of breathing throughout the course of a night’s sleep due to an obstruction. The pauses in breath can be a short as a few seconds to as long as minutes, and occur from 5 to over 30 times within any given hour during a night of sleep.
Dispelling the Myth
Many are under the false impression that with COPD, the incidence of OSA is higher than in the general population. In all actuality, research published in Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society confirmed that the relationship between the two conditions is not linked to a physiological cause. Unfortunately, it is merely due to chance.
Due to the fact that there are so many similarities between COPD and OSA, when both are present, the person is said to have overlap syndrome. It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of people with COPD have overlap syndrome.
The following are the symptoms for COPD and OSA, which can overlap:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Lower blood oxygen levels
COPD sufferers also experience difficulty in breathing, tightening of the chest, frequent nighttime urination and chronic morning cough. People with OSA find that they snore and have morning headaches and poor concentration. Although the incidence of OSA is not higher for COPD patients, the quality of sleep and oxygen levels during sleep will worsen with overlap syndrome. When left untreated, both COPD and OSA increase an individual’s risk for other life-threatening illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and stroke, to name a few.
If OSA is treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and/or even cured with radiofrequency ablation (RFA), the life of a COPD sufferer will improve. Published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine, researchers at Brown University in Providence, RI, discovered that any CPAP use by test subjects with overlap syndrome lowered their risk of death.
For both COPD and OSA, it is important to see a physician and get an accurate diagnosis. The longer either condition is left untreated, the shorter a person’s life expectancy.
If you have been wondering whether or not your COPD might be affecting or an indication of sleep apnea, contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation when it’s convenient for you.