Monday, March 1, 2010

High Prevalence of Sleep Apnea in Adults With Down Syndrome

A 2009 study published in the Journal Sleep and Breathing found that sleep apnea may be underdiagnosed in Down syndrome patients.

A fertilized human egg normally has 23 pairs of chromosomes. Most people with Down syndrome have an extra copy of Chromosome 21. This condition can affect both mental and physical development.

In the general population, an estimated four percent of men and two percent of women suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The researchers found a much higher prevalence in adults with Down syndrome.

The study involved 16 adults with Down syndrome. Fifteen of them were Caucasian. Their ages ranged from 19 to 56 years. Their sleep was evaluated during an overnight sleep study.

Results show that 94 percent of people with Down syndrome had OSA. Moderate OSA affected 88 percent, causing them to stop breathing more than 15 times per hour of sleep. Severe OSA affected 69 percent, causing them to stop breathing more than 30 times per hour.

Obesity increases a person’s risk for sleep apnea. In this study, body mass index (BMI) correlated with sleep apnea severity. Twelve of the 16 Down syndrome patients were obese.

While 94 percent of the people with Down syndrome had OSA, only one had been referred for clinical evaluation of the condition. Researchers suggest that OSA may be underdiagnosed in this group of people because OSA and Down syndrome have similar complications. Both conditions can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and impaired cognitive function.

A 2003 study in the journal SLEEP found that children with Down syndrome also have a high rate of OSA. The study involved 108 children with Down syndrome. Forty-two percent of the children had at least mild OSA. In contrast, two percent of children in the general population suffer from OSA.

People with Down syndrome often have physical features that increase their risk of OSA – a flat face and short neck, and poor muscle tone.

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that should be diagnosed at an AASM-accredited sleep center.

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.