Can Sleep Apnea Cause Lupus?
July 15, 2011
Probably not. But I can make a strong argument that it’s possible with upper airway resistance syndrome.
I saw a patient with UARS today who underwent removal of her large lingual tonsils a few months ago. As expected, her previous poor sleep quality and headaches are much improved, but not completely normal. Opening up the space behind her tongue definitely made a significant difference in how well she breathes at night.
Interestingly, she happened to get tested again for her known lupus condition a few weeks ago, and was excited to tell me that not only that her ANA level come back negative, but many of her other autoimmune markers were significantly improved as well. ANA is a very generic marker for autoimmune disease in general, and not very specific for lupus. However, the improvements in her clinical symptoms, along with changes in her blood tests, strongly suggests that there may be a connection.
Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, patients with upper airway resistance syndrome have overactive immune and nervous systems. Chronic, low-grade physiologic stress that ensues without hypoxia can set up the perfect storm for autoimmune disease development.
Coincidentally, I just had another patient that remarked that his intractable gout improved significantly after eating earlier and using Breathe Rite strips. Another patient had her severe rheumatoid arthritis resolve almost completely after treatment for obstructive sleep apnea.
Casually looking up connections between sleep-breathing disorders and various autoimmune or unusual disorders, I did find a number of small or anecdotal studies.
Stay tuned for a future teleseminar on this topic.