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Rev Med Univ Navarra. 2004 Apr-Jun;48(2):55-62.

[The obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome in obesity: a conspirator in the shadow].

[Article in Spanish]

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Departamento de Endocrinología y Nutrición, Clínica Universitaria de Navarra, Facultad de Medicina, Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona.


The obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome (OSAS) is caused by upper airway collapse during sleep. These episodes are associated with recurrent oxyhaemoglobin desaturations and arousals which lead to disruption of the sleep pattern and cognitive deterioration. Factors such as age, male sex, menopause, tobacco and alcohol consumption and anatomic abnormalities are demonstrated risk factors for OSAS development. Obesity, specially of abdominal type, is also a very strong predictor of OSAS, increasing the risk of apnoea by ten times. OSAS prevalence may reach 80% and 50% en males and females with morbid obesity respectively. OSAS induces sympathoexcitation, insulin resistance, renin-angiotensin system activation, oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunction, hypercoagulability and reduction of fibrinolysis leading to hypertension and increased cardiovascular risk. The best diagnostic procedure is polysomnography. Obesity treatment is followed by a dramatic improvement in OSAS. Weight loss of 10% results in reductions of apnoea index by 26%. Application of a positive pressure system is a very effective treatment for OSAS which reduces the apnoea index and improves cardiovascular risk and cognitive impairment.

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