Sleep apnea and diabetes are two unfortunate diseases for which there is no cure. Both medical issues, however, can be controlled and treated. There is no concrete evidence that proves that sleep apnea and diabetes are directly related, but there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that the two are linked. As more medical research is conducted, the links are becoming closer and more obvious.
The Sharp Diabetes Treatment and Research Center in San Diego, California was home to research conducted by facility director, Daniel Einhorn. His research showed a surprising link between men with diabetes and men with apnea; about forty percent of all men who have type 2 diabetes also suffer from sleep apnea. He also noted that the percentage of men with both diseases rose to sixty one percent in men over the age of sixty five.
An interesting similarity between the diseases is that many people who suffer from them are completely unaware of their condition. In fact, around one-third of Americans with diabetes have not been diagnosed yet. The number of people with undiagnosed sleep apnea is appalling. Around ninety percent of women and eighty percent of men with moderate to severe sleep apnea have not been diagnosed.
Being undiagnosed with either problem means that the diseases are uncontrolled, and uncontrolled diabetes or sleep apnea is more serious that most people realize. If you are aware of your diabetes, then you know how imperative it is to keep track of glucose levels in the body; the consequences are immediate and usually obvious. There are many symptoms of untreated sleep apnea that are not as fully recognized: constant fatigue, poor concentration, lack of energy, and even depression. Untreated sleep apnea can also lead to high blood pressure, brain damage, heart attacks, strokes, and accidents.
The way the body reacts during an apnea may be the most tangible link between the two diseases. While, again, there is no solid evidence proving the link, medical research supports it. Many medical professionals believe that the body’s natural reaction to the cessation of breath during sleep is to activate a fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight response in the body can set in motion a train of events. The body produces cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”, when the respiratory system is compromised. The increased level of cortisol is linked to two major functions: insulin resistance and glucose intolerance in the body. Resistance to insulin and intolerance of glucose are two serious pre-diabetic conditions. If they are left untreated, they can easily lead to the development of permanent diabetes.