Can Sleep Apnea Cause Lupus?

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. 
























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3 thoughts on “Can Sleep Apnea Cause Lupus?

  1. Doctors in Tennessee reported significantly reduced symptoms of myasthenia gravis (another autoimmune disease) in a woman who started CPAP therapy. There’s a tantalizing link among infections, autoimmunity, and sleep. I can’t wait until someone figures out what it is.

  2. Here’s the news blurb in “The Chattanoogan”

    “Dr. Chandra And Colleagues Publish First Case Of Ocular Myasthenia Improving With CPAP Therapy

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    Dr. Anuj Chandra and several of his colleagues, including Saira Naseer, MD, Victor O. Kolade, MD, FACP, Sarim Idrees, MD and Sidra Naseer, BBA, have described the first case of Ocular Myasthenia which improved with use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. An article about their observation has been accepted for publication in the July 2012 issue of Tennessee Medicine, the journal of the Tennessee Medical Association.”