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Do You Have Overlap Syndrome?

Posted On October 7, 2015
October 07, 2015

In the United States today, over 24 million adults are impaired with less than optimal lung function. Number one cause is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It is estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that 12.7 million Americans have COPD, which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. What then causes COPD to develop? Smoking tops the list with second being environmental pollutants. Now if you have been diagnosed with COPD and also happen to have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), then you are really laboring to breathe. Due to the fact that there are so many similarities between COPD and OSA when both are present, you probably have overlap syndrome.

What is the Incidence of Overlap Syndrome?
It is estimated that 10 to 15 percent of people with COPD have overlap syndrome. These individuals struggle to breathe around the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With overlap syndrome, breathing during the day is labored. And at night, the OSA causes pauses in breathing 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 sleep.
COPD will precipitate the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Tightening of the chest
  • Frequent nighttime urination
  • Chronic morning cough

Sleep apnea sufferers tend to snore, have morning headaches and trouble with their concentration. With both COPD and OSA present in overlap syndrome, the name explains the symptom duplication of fatigue, daytime sleepiness and lower oxygen levels. Believe it or not even though the incidence of OSA is not higher in COPD patients, overlap syndrome wreaks havoc on the quality of sleep and adversely affects oxygen levels.
When COPD and OSA are left untreated in overlap syndrome, the risk for other life-threatening illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and stroke, increases. Therefore it is important to see a physician and get an accurate diagnosis. The longer overlap syndrome is left untreated, the shorter a person’s life expectancy.
More Facts about Overlap Syndrome
Interestingly enough, the link between COPD and OSA in overlap syndrome is due to chance. There is no physiological cause, which was confirmed by research published in Proceedings of the American Thoracic Society.
Studies have shown that people with overlap syndrome have an increased risk of respiratory failure and pulmonary hypertension than individuals with just OSA or COPD alone. Another interesting finding that this French group unearthed was that pulmonary hypertension was discovered in the presence of mild to moderate bronchial obstruction.  This is different from “usual” COPD.
Overlap syndrome is treated with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) at night along with conventional oxygen therapy during the day. However, there are newer treatments available to help decrease the symptoms associated with COPD and OSA.
If you have been wondering whether or not you might have overlap syndrome and would like to find available treatment options, we are here to help you. Contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a consultation when it’s convenient for you.

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