Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Study Links Sleep Apnea to Silent Strokes

Sleep apnea—a condition in which a person’s breathing stops periodically during sleep—has long been associated with an increased risk for strokes. But a new study links sleep apnea with silent strokes, a symptomless type of stroke that can cause brain damage and lead to a heightened chance for a major stroke.

The study was conducted by researchers at Dresden University, and the findings will be formally presented at the upcoming American Stroke Association’s international conference.

Research focused on overnight testing of 56 men and women with an average age of 67 who had suffered a stroke or the neurological dysfunction called transient ischemic attack (also known as a mini-stroke). Ninety-one percent of the patients who experienced a stroke also had sleep apnea.

Brain imaging was used to monitor the patients during sleep, and researchers found that having more than five episodes of sleep apnea during a sleep cycle was associated with silent stroke. According to the study, the more times a person stopped breathing during the night, the greater the risk of a silent stroke.

The research led to a number of questions, including whether pre-existing sleep apnea plays a role in silent strokes or whether patients who suffer silent strokes are more vulnerable to developing sleep apnea. According to WebMD, 20 to 25 percent of people 60 and older have had a silent stroke.

Most people who suffer a silent stroke are unaware they’ve had a stroke, as silent strokes typically do not have noticeable symptoms. They do, however, cause minor damage to the brain and put those who suffer silent strokes at an increased risk for major strokes in the future.

If you suffer from the symptoms of sleep apnea, a dentist who specializes in sleep disorders may be able to diagnose the source of your condition and recommend effective treatment options.

Please contact us to locate a qualified sleep disorder dentist near you.

posted by Steve at 2:26 PM