Obstructive sleep apnea is a dangerous condition we learn more about each passing week. What once seemed like a simple, inconvenient sleeping disorder is actually a much bigger problem than originally thought. The effect of sleeping conditions such as OSA on the human brain is especially worrisome. New research has even shown that it has the potential to affect the Amyloid Burden associated with Alzheimer’s.
The American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine published the research. This information has helped medical professionals better understand the dangers resulting from untreated OSA. It also helps patients understand the severity of the disorder and increase their likelihood to seek treatment.
Amyloid is a starch-like protein. This abnormal protein gathers in the kidney, liver, spleen, brain, and other tissues. Bone marrow creates this protein which then deposits throughout the body. It often impacts different organ systems in different individuals. If the Amyloid burden is too high then the patient is at risk for life threatening organ failure.
There’s no cure for this condition, however, there are things you can do to limit the Amyloid burden and manage symptoms.
Most people aren’t aware they have a high Amyloid burden, or amyloidosis until their condition advances to a certain level. Symptoms generally include swelling in the legs and ankles, fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, unintentional weight loss, an enlarged tongue, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, and more. The symptoms may vary depending on where the buildup occurs within your body.
The protein results when bone marrow produces the abnormal protein or antibodies. These can’t be broken down and instead accumulate throughout the body, interrupting normal organ function. It takes time for the protein to accumulate to levels significant enough to cause a problem. This is why we often see the worst cases among the elderly.
Research is now saying that the amyloid deposits associated with amyloid burden are linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. Studies have shown that individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s tend to show a higher amyloid burden. The amyloid beta biomarkers increase over time in elderly patients suffering from OSA. The increase in these plaque-building peptides seems to grow in relation to the severity of the patient’s OSA. In other words: the worse the sleep apnea, the greater the amyloid burden.
Over five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. This number is staggering, but even more so is the number of individuals suffering with OSA. Up to 80 percent of seniors have some degree of this dangerous sleeping disorder.
The studies conducted by Ricardo S. Osorio, MD at New York University School of Medicine show that the sleep disturbances caused by OSA likely contribute to increased amyloid deposits. This in turn accelerates the cognitive decline for individuals at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Recent years have proven that the effect of OSA on the human brain is far more extensive than ever imagined. This new study further illustrates the importance of treating OSA, regardless of age. The study monitored the association between changes in amyloid biomarkers and OSA severity. Research points to an increase in amyloid deposits over time in healthy patients who suffer from OSA.
Though the study was small, the results are quite powerful.
Over 200 participants between the ages of 55 and 90 were participants in the study. Standardized tests along with clinical evaluations measured cognition levels. At the time of the study, none of the participants were undergoing treatment for OSA, suffered from depression, or had any other medical conditions that may impair brain function. Researchers tested amyloid deposits using lumbar punctures, positron emission tomography, or PET.
More than half of the research participants were diagnosed with OSA. Over 36 percent presented as mild OSA while nearly 17 percent had moderate to severe OSA. The study went on to evaluate 104 participants in a two-year study. Results pointed to a link between OSA severity and an increase in amyloid burden.
While the exact relation between OSA and AD cannot be pinpointed in this small study, researchers suggest treating OSA in an attempt to delay cognitive impairment and even dementia. The data from this and other studies is enough to suggest that cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and obstructive sleep apnea are linked in some way.
Growing evidence regarding the negative impacts of OSA on just about every major body system has led to developments in the field. New ways of testing, diagnosing, and treating sleep apnea are now on the market. This allows patients to battle this disorder as they never have before.
Armed with awareness of the devastating effects of OSA, more individuals are seeking diagnosis. Doctors are working hand in hand with sleep centers to evaluate patients in order to provide proper diagnosis. Even treatment methods are evolving.
The primary treatment option for individuals suffering from OSA has long been the CPAP machine. This device provides a steady current of air through a hose and mask placed over the mouth and nose. The air provides a continuous gentle pressure that helps keep the airway open. This method, though effective, unfortunately has one of the lowest compliance rates. Unfortunately, it only works if patients can use it consistently.
Many patients have found that they aren’t able to tolerate CPAP therapy. They are forced to seek alternative treatment options that work better for them. Thankfully, oral appliances have proven to be a viable alternative to CPAP therapy.
Dentists certified in sleep medicine have the ability to design an oral appliance for OSA patients. The appliance works by gently repositioning the jaw during sleep with the use of a mouth piece. For many, this alternative is much more comfortable and easier to use.
It’s extremely important to treat OSA before it creates other health problems. However, to do so effectively means finding a treatment option the patient will follow. Dr. Mark Levy DDS is an expert when it comes to treating sleep apnea. He and his team are standing by to offer you the care you need.