Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis Patients Worsened by Sleep Apnea

Written by Manny Erlich on May 1, 2014. Posted in Sleep Disorders

People diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) already have enough to deal with, including fatigue. But researchers are finding that the presence of obstructive sleep apnea can make fatigue even more prevalent. Because sleep apnea is a common occurrence for those with MS, it has a great impact on their quality of life by exacerbating a symptom that’s very debilitating.

A study was conducted at Ann Arbor’s University of Michigan Multiple Sclerosis & Sleep Disorders Centers. Of those studies, one-fifth were diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and one-half were considered to be at a high risk for developing the condition. Sleep apnea places additional health risk on those with MS because it compromises health and the individual’s quality of life. As a chronic illness causing further debilitation to MS sufferers, it’s vital that OSA be diagnosed in a timely manner.

Doctors at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommend that people with MS who suspect they suffer from a form of sleep apnea should seek a referral to a sleep medicine physician. Likewise, our upcoming Sleep Center Directory can assist individuals with MS in getting the diagnosis and treatment they need.

The team of doctors involved in the study at the University of Michigan Sleep Disorders Center selected their subjects through a questionnaire on sleep and four instruments created to assess daytime sleepiness, severity of insomnia and severity of fatigue. Medical records of the people participating in the study also revealed the clinical characteristics that could help predict the person’s risk of OSA or fatigue.

As explained by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the chronic condition of sleep apnea involves periodic stoppage of or decreased airflow as the individual sleeps. While the muscles relax, the soft tissue located at the back of the person’s throat can collapse, causing a blockage to the upper airway. Many people suffering with this condition are known to snore loudly. In addition to having OSA diagnosed and treated, there are also many options for dealing with snoring so the individual and his or her loved one can get a better night’s sleep.

Because sleep apnea is a condition that’s under-recognized in MS sufferers, doctors and researchers want to raise awareness and encourage those with the condition to be tested for sleep apnea. Approximately 400,000 people in the US have multiple sclerosis, with 12 percent of them diagnosed with sleep apnea.

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Manny Erlich

International Foundation of Employee Benefits - Certified Employee Benefits Specialist