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Link Between Type 2 Diabetes, Sleep Apnea

The ties being found between type 2 diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) indicate these disorders have major implications on public health. Up to 40 percent of people with OSA, a common breathing disorder, also have diabetes, recent studies suggest. Likewise, more than half of the people with type 2 diabetes suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Another recent study suggests treating OSA with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) improves insulin sensitivity in non-obese people.

In a statement made Saturday during a presentation at the American Diabetes Association’s annual meeting, strongly recommends health-care professionals working with both conditions receive more education about the links between them. The federation also encouraged clinical practices be adopted so a person presenting with one condition is checked for the other.

The statement, which is also published in an article in Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice, calls for people with OSA to be routinely screened for metabolic disease and type 2 diabetes. It also says people with diabetes should be screened for OSA, especially when they have had classic symptoms such as heavy snoring or daytime sleepiness and poor workplace performance.

"Health policy makers and the general public must be made aware of the link between type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea, so that we can begin to address the significant economic burden and debilitating health consequences to both individuals and the community," Paul Zimmet, co-chair of the federation’s Task Force on Epidemiology and Prevention, said in a prepared statement. "Today’s statement is an urgent call to action to the medical community. It is imperative that we better understand the relationship between diabetes and sleep apnea through research and establish appropriate standards of care for managing diabetes and co-morbidities such as sleep apnea."

Annual costs of diabetes amount to $170 billion in the United States alone. While figures aren’t available for OSA, it creates large indirect costs, because it contributes to lost workplace productivity, and work and transportation accidents. OSA also has ties to cardiovascular disease, stroke, and depression that have yet to be quantified.
Presented at the American Diabetes Association 68th Scientific Sessions held in San Francisco, California.

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