from the University of Cincinnati (UC) and Cincinnati Children’s
Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) have found that young women with asthma
are twice as likely to have symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea—a
condition that often goes undetected in women—compared with those who
do not have asthma.
team found that about 21 percent of young adult women with asthma
experienced habitual snoring, the primary symptom of obstructive sleep
the researchers say, disprove a long-held notion that obstructive sleep
apnea predominantly affects males, and highlights the importance of
identifying specific groups of women who are at high risk for the
This study is reported in the August edition of the journal Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
“For a long time
physicians believed that men were more likely than women to get
obstructive sleep apnea, but we’ve shown that’s not necessarily true,”
says Maninder Kalra, MD,
lead author of the study and assistant professor of pediatrics at the
UC College of Medicine. “Our study reinforces the need for awareness
and early detection of the disease in women who are at increased risk
for breathing disorders related to sleep.”
apnea occurs when airways in the nose, mouth and throat narrow and
disrupt a person’s ability to breathe properly—primarily during sleep.
When this happens, breathing can stop for short periods and cause
blood-oxygen levels to become low.
Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to impaired memory, mood swings, restless sleep, and extreme day-time fatigue. Long term effects can include higher blood pressure and decreased heart function.
to know the risk factors that predispose a patient to obstructive sleep
apnea,” Kalra adds, “so we can get those patients in for a conclusive
test—such as a sleep study—and start treatment sooner.”
research team also found that women who smoked cigarettes were at a
higher risk for snoring than those who did not smoke.
collected data from 677 mothers of infants enrolled in the UC
environmental health department’s Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air
Pollution Study (CCAAPS) about their history of snoring, respiratory
symptoms and cigarette smoking.
funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, is a
five-year study examining the effects of environmental particulates on
childhood respiratory health and allergy development.
enrolled in the study had at least one confirmed allergy, in either the
mother or the father. Environmental tobacco smoke exposure and any
history of asthmatic conditions were measured by questionnaire.
Researchers used this data to compare snorers with non-snorers and
determine risk factors for snoring in women under 50.
treatment options for obstructive sleep apnea include surgery to remove
tissue in the throat and use of a mask during sleep that applies
continuous pressure to the airways to help restore airflow. According
to the American Lung Association, more than 18 million Americans have
in this study include UC’s Jocelyn Biagini, David Bernstein, MD, Sherry
Stanforth, Jeffrey Burkle and Grace LeMasters, PhD, principal
investigator of the CCAAPS. This study also received support from a
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Research Foundation grant.