A small study in the Aug. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that untreated obstructive sleep apnea is common in adults with Down syndrome.
Results show that 94 percent of people with Down syndrome had OSA; 88 percent had at least moderate OSA with an apnea-hypopnea index of more than 15 breathing pauses per hour of sleep; 69 percent had severe OSA with an AHI of more than 30.
This was much higher than the reported rate of OSA in the general population; it is estimated that at least two percent of middle-aged women and four percent of men have OSA.
“Patients with Down syndrome have a great deal of risk factors for OSA,” senior author Dr. Carole Marcus told the AASM. “It was surprising how severe the illness was, and how the OSA was unsuspected by their caregivers.”
According to the NICHD, a fertilized egg normally has 23 pairs of chromosomes. Most people with Down syndrome have an extra copy of Chromosome 21; this is called “trisomy 21” because there are three copies of the chromosome instead of two. Down syndrome can affect both mental and physical development.
Nine of the participants with Down syndrome were followed up in the sleep clinic. CPAP therapy was recommended for all of them.
According to the authors, people with Down syndrome tend to die early. A 2002 study found that in 1997 the median age at death for people with Down syndrome was 49 years.
The authors suggest that untreated OSA may contribute to this early mortality. Yesterday the Sleep Education Blog reported that severe OSA increases your risk of death.
Learn more about the study on SleepEducation.com.
Get help for sleep apnea at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.