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J Postgrad Med. 2011 Apr-Jun;57(2):168-75. doi: 10.4103/0022-3859.81866.

Obstructive sleep apnea: not just a sleep disorder.

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  • 1Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine and Sleep Medicine, University of Massachusetts, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. gopanya@hotmail.com

Abstract

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has long been recognized as a disorder characterized by snoring and frequent cessations of breathing resulting in fragmentation of sleep, which eventually leads to cumulative sleep debt in affected patients. Until two decades ago, snoring and apneas drew attention mainly as a social curiosity and sleep apnea was not thought of as a serious disorder with multisystem involvement. Impairment of quality of work and high incidence of motor vehicle accidents associated with OSA were recognized toward the end of the last century. Since the turn of this millennium physicians have become increasingly aware of the various cardiovascular complications, metabolic disturbances, and neuropsychologic deficits. It has become very clear in the last decade that patients with OSA have a high recurrence of atrial fibrillation after elective cardioversion if their sleep apnea is not treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Poor control of diabetes mellitus and resistant hypertension in the setting of OSA has also been recognized and significant progress in our understanding in this area has been accomplished. Unless physicians include sleep in their system review, many cases will go undiagnosed, which will eventually result in cardiovascular complications. Patients are also not readily forthcoming with the symptoms of sleep apnea, as they often assume that symptoms, such as snoring and daytime sleepiness, are not something serious to be discussed with their physician. In this review, the characteristics, the pathophysiology, and epidemiology of OSA are discussed. Furthermore, the mechanisms by which OSA affects the cardiovascular, endocrine, and metabolic functions have been explored.

PMID:
21654148
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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