Type 2 Diabetes and Obstructive Sleep Apnea

One-third of patients with type 2 diabetes also suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A thoughtful elderly man sits on his bed near a nightstand holding his glasses and candles.

Study results published in the current issue of Endocrine Practice suggest that patients with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The study — conducted at The Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute (La Jolla, Calif.) under the supervision of Principal Investigator Daniel Einhorn, MD, — evaluated a patient population of 279 adults with type 2 diabetes and found that 36 percent of these patients also suffered from Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Researchers noted a high prevalence of OSA in men and women with type 2 diabetes of all ages; that men were more than twice as likely to have OSA than women; and, that OSA was particularly common in men over the age of 62.

OSA prevalence among patients with type 2 diabetes

This was the first prospective study to asses the prevalence of OSA in male and female adults with type 2 diabetes in a typical diabetes clinic. A 2004 published study demonstrated an independent association between OSA and glucose intolerance and insulin resistance (American Journal of Epidemiology, 2004; 160: 521-530).

A study published in 2005 found that patients with OSA and type 2 diabetes who were treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy experienced a significant reduction in glucose levels (Archives of Internal Medicine, 2005; 165: 447-452).

“These findings demonstrate that obstructive sleep apnea has a high prevalence in adults with type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Einhorn. “Given that treatment of obstructive sleep apnea has the potential to both decrease blood pressure and improve glycemic control, individuals with type 2 diabetes should be regularly screened for the presence of sleep apnea.”

Screening for OSA among patients with diabetes

The Whittier Institute for Diabetes, at the forefront of diabetes research and education, recognizes the established link between OSA and type 2 diabetes. The Whittier recently implemented a screening program to determine if patients are at-risk for OSA and should consider further consultation about the disorder with their primary care physician.

According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 20 million people in the United States have diabetes, with over 20 percent of adults over the age of 60 suffering from the disease. The ADA estimates that up to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes are type 2. Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin and can lead to death if not treated properly.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 18 million Americans suffer from OSA and up to 90 percent have not been diagnosed. OSA is a sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing stops during sleep as a result of a collapsed airway that prevents air from getting to the lungs.

These “apneic events” disrupt healthy sleep and cause a number of short-term and long-lasting effects that threaten sufferers’ health and well-being. OSA is linked to a number of long-term health risks, including cardiovascular disease, hypertension, depression, sexual dysfunction and an increased risk of automobile accidents.

About the Whittier Institute for Diabetes

The Whittier Institute for Diabetes provides resources for innovative diabetes research, education, and patient care. Located on the campus of Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, The Whittier is one of the nation’s leading comprehensive organizations for diabetes and was ranked 20th in the nation in the “Endocrinology” category in 2006 by U.S.News & World Report.

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