Untreated sleep apnea may be contributing to MS patients’ debilitating fatigue. Findings from a new study show that people with MS have a heightened risk for sleep apnea. Patients with MS who have fatigue or any of the other common symptoms of sleep apnea should be evaluated for the sleep disorder.
The study, which was published in the February issue of Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, looked at the prevalence of sleep apnea in MS patients.
More than half of the MS patients included in the study had symptoms which indicated a high risk for sleep apnea. One out of every five had already been diagnosed with the sleep disorder.
The study used a series of medical questionnaires commonly used in sleep clinics to pre-screen patients for sleep disorders. The MS patients answered questions about their sleep quality, daytime symptoms and whether they had been diagnosed with sleep apnea.
Based on its design, the study linked sleep apnea to MS, but could not indicate a cause-and-effect relationship.
People with MS should look out for the symptoms of sleep apnea. These include loud and frequent snoring interrupted by sounds of choking or gasping, which indicates pauses in breathing. Daytime symptoms include excessive sleepiness, difficulty concentrating and morning headaches.
Sleep apnea in MS patients is most often diagnosed using an in-lab sleep study at an AASM-accredited sleep center.
Multiple sclerosis is a debilitating disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. It causes the body’s immune system to damage the protective sheath that covers the nerves, interfering in the communication between the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the body. The cause of the disease is unknown. There is no cure, but treatments may reduce its progress and symptoms.