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Are People with Sleep Apnea at High Risk for Pneumonia?

Posted On January 27, 2015
January 27, 2015

As we get ready to say goodbye to summer and hello to the beginning of fall, we know that a yearly occurrence is almost upon us. Not an easier commute to work because school is back in season. But rather all of the prevalent advertisements and promotional signs reminding us to stop in and get a flu shot to protect us from getting the latest bug this season. In recent years, many locations have been touting the importance of also getting a pneumonia vaccination. Unfortunately, there are many people who need to ward off contracting this type of infection that wreaks havoc on the lungs and breathing. But what about the people who already have a problem with breathing? What about them? Are people with sleep apnea at high risk for pneumonia?

What is Sleep Apnea?

It seems simple enough: We breathe in and we breathe out. Our lungs inflate and take oxygen in, and deflate and let out carbon dioxide. A no brainer or so it would seem unless your breathing becomes hampered while trying to rest at night. Whether you are a man or a woman, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can cause many a sleepless night and affect everyday activities during daylight hours.

Depending on the severity and type of obstruction of your sleep apnea, breathing is interrupted throughout sleep, which can be to the tune of hundreds of instances. Each time a person has a sleep apnea episode, the blood oxygen level drops and as a result can affect multiple organs within the body.

People with Sleep Apnea at High Risk for Pneumonia

Over a period of 11 years, a group of researchers in Taiwan investigated whether or not people with sleep apnea were at high risk for pneumonia. The results of their decade-plus work were published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. And the answer was a definite yes: People with sleep apnea are at high risk for pneumonia. In fact, the Taiwanese group discovered that the more severe the sleep apnea, the higher the risk.

The nationwide study had 34,100 participants with over 27,000 without sleep apnea and nearly 7,000 with the sleep disorder. Although the researchers determined that the sleep apnea group contracted pneumonia at a rate of 9.36 percent versus the group who did not have sleep apnea at 7.7 percent, they felt that sleep apnea was still an independent risk factor. That is to say the investigators did not believe that there was an evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship. As a side note, the individuals with sleep apnea who developed pneumonia were older and had other medical conditions in their history such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia.

Yet with the obstruction in breathing at night and drop in oxygen, sleep apnea sufferers have a tendency to inhale fluid and substances into their lungs. Therefore, theoretically this factor could place people with sleep apnea at high risk for developing pneumonia.

If you have trouble sleeping or think you have sleep apnea, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.

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