Many people with asthma suffer from nighttime breathing disorders like sleep apnea and treating the condition could help control their asthma, researchers said on Wednesday.
“A lot of folks that we otherwise would have said this is a separate problem, we are now realizing there is a connection,” said Dr. William Bria, medical co-director of the University of Michigan’s asthma airways program.His team examined the connection between sleep-related breathing disorders by giving questionnaires to patients with asthma who were not doing well on regular medication. Of the 115 subjects included in the study so far, most had severe asthma.Preliminary results found 49 percent of women and 33 percent of men were at risk for sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops for periods of time during sleep.”This tells us that a lot more people with asthma need to have sleep studies,” Bria said. “When patients are having problems with asthma, their doctors need to look at more than whether they are taking enough puffs from their inhalers.”Sleep apnea is typically treated with a continuous positive airway pressure device, essentially a nasal breathing mask.Bria said the University of Michigan center was also conducting a study to see if patients with persistent asthma benefited from treatment with the device, and said early results were promising.The study also found that 55 percent of patients said they experienced excessive daytime sleepiness, which is one of the symptoms of sleep apnea.Bria said he believed both conditions were related to the body’s inflammatory response.Final results from the questionnaire, presented in San Diego at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society, are expected later this year. (Source: Reuters Health, May 2005)