When it’s not treated, the sleep disorder Sleep Apnea is associated with numerous health problems. Recently, a study found that people who have Sleep Apnea have a higher risk of developing gout. Gout is a type of arthritis; an inflammatory condition that can come from high blood levels of uric acid. The acid can develop into crystals within your joints, which as you could imagine could lead to pain, as well as other symptoms.
How could gout and sleep be connected? Let’s take a look at the two health conditions and research that makes the connection between them.
Gout Symptoms and Treatment
Gout’s symptoms include pain, redness, swelling, tenderness, and warmth in the joints. The Arthritis Foundation explains that gout often starts in the big toe or another joint in the lower body. Then, gout attacks can present themselves in other joints and become a chronic problem. This health condition tends to impact one joint during an episode, but untreated gout can affect numerous ones.
Treatment for gout includes both lifestyle changes and medication. The medication provides prevention by managing uric acid levels, as well as management of acute attacks by helping with the pain and the inflammation. Lifestyle changes for gout management include having a healthy body weight, being physically active and following a diet for gout based on reducing uric acid levels and improving heart health.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a separate condition than gout. It is a sleep disorder that also affects respiratory health. When you have Sleep Apnea, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains that you experience episodes when you cannot breathe as you sleep.
Your airway becomes blocked, which leads to the lack of airflow to your lungs. After short periods of not breathing that can be a few seconds or up to 30 seconds or longer, your brain receives the message that you’re not breathing and tells you to wake up. Once you’re awake, you’re able to breathe again. There are different types of Sleep Apnea, but these experiences refer to the most common type, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
When it’s untreated, Sleep Apnea effects can include heart disease, chronic kidney disease, cancer or other serious problems. Sleep Apnea can have a major impact on health, in part because it restricts oxygen and interrupts normal sleep patterns that are essential to optimal health.
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Gout and Sleep Apnea
While they are separate health problems, untreated Sleep Apnea may contribute to developing gout. This is one of the potential long-term effects of Sleep Apnea.
A recent study in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology provided a population-based cohort study that looked at the risk of gout in people with Sleep Apnea. The study checked information from the UK’s The Health Improvement Network to find people who had newly diagnosed Sleep Apnea.
It looked at 9,865 patients who had a new diagnosis of Sleep Apnea and 43,598 matched people without the condition. Out of these, it found 270 cases of gout over the course of one year. The research discovered that Sleep Apnea has an independent association with a higher risk of incident gout. The association continued independent of risk factors such as BMI and lifestyle factors.
Nonetheless, a higher risk does not show causality. In other words, the study does not determine that Sleep Apnea directly causes gout. Additional research is needed on gout and sleep to follow up on this study. The researchers of this study mentioned theories on potential links between Sleep Apnea and gout, which could be followed up on. For instance, an oxygen deficiency from Sleep Apnea could enhance the turnover of the organic molecules nucleotides, creating purines that turn into uric acid.
It’s also possible that certain people have a higher risk of both problems without one causing the other. The researchers noted that Sleep Apnea is a common problem for people who have a profile typical of those with gout.
Also, the researchers recommended that future studies should look at how addressing oxygen deficiency to body tissues (hypoxia) that are induced by Sleep Apnea could impact the incidence of high levels of blood uric acid (hyperuricemia) and flares of gout.
There are various risks of Sleep Apnea, one of which is gout. It’s important to know the potential risks and keep up with the maintenance of Sleep Apnea and other health problems. By treating Sleep Apnea, you can help manage associated risks as well as have improved health overall.
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David Repasky has been using CPAP treatment since 2017 and has first-hand experience with what it’s like to live with Sleep Apnea. He brings the patient’s perspective to the CPAP.com blog and has received formal training in CPAP machines, masks, and equipment.