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Sleep Apnea and Multiple Sclerosis

By Kim Wetmore

Multiple Sclerosis, known as MS, is a disease of the brain and spinal cord. It results in loss of muscle control, balance, vision and sensation. Numbness commonly experienced. This condition is known as an autoimmune disease due to the fact that the immune system is responsible for the damage to the muscles and brain.  Autoimmune conditions occur when the body’s immune system, which normally targets foreign bodies like microorganisms and infections, instead attacks healthy tissues.   According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, it affects approximately 400,000 people in the US.

Fatigue is known to be a common symptom for those with MS and it has recently been researched that this fatigue can be increased in those with MS who also live with sleep apnea.  At the University of Michigan Multiple Sclerosis and Sleep Disorders Center, an assistant professor, Dr Tiffany Braley conducted and wrote a small study of MS patients who also experienced sleep disorders. This study consisted of 195 MS patients who completed a sleep questionnaire and were tested for daytime sleepiness, insomnia, fatigue severity and sleep apnea.

In the findings, 1/5 of the patients were diagnosed with sleep apnea and an additional 50% had an elevated risk of being diagnosed with sleep apnea.  The researchers added that the increased sleep apnea risk significantly predicted fatigue severity.

“Obstructive sleep apnea is a chronic illness that can have a destructive impact on your health and quality of life,” and MS patients at high risk for sleep apnea should undergo a comprehensive sleep evaluation, academy president Dr. M. Safwan Badr said in the news release.

As has been the struggle for those attempting to increase awareness of sleep apnea, yet another group of patients, those suffering with MS, have be recognized as a set of people for which sleep apnea is under recognized.  The researchers concluded that doctors should not hesitate to check patients with MS for underlying sleep conditions such as sleep apnea.

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