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Study Suggests Link between Fatty Liver and Sleep Apnea

Submitted by New Jersey Snoring Solutions on Tue 03/31/2015 - 09:11

New research has surfaced showing a possible connection betweenobstructive sleep apnea and fatty liver disease, both of which affect tens of millions of Americans yet often go undiagnosed. Here, the team at New Jersey Sleep Apnea Solutions explains the findings and what they could mean for your health.

What the New Research Revealed

Last year, the journal Chest published research that showed a strong connection between sleep apnea and fatty liver, a condition in which fat accumulates to make up over 5-10 percent of the liver’s weight.

Researchers looked at 226 individuals that were referred to a clinic upon suspicions of having sleep apnea. All of these individuals were middle-aged and obese. It turned out that two-thirds of those individuals also had fatty liver disease.

Researchers made another surprising discovery: As the patients’ sleep apnea episodes increased in severity, their fatty liver disease also advanced.

A study published in The Journal of Pediatrics last year corroborated these results. Researchers looked at a group of children and identified sleep apnea in 60 percent of those that had fatty liver disease. Children with worsening sleep apnea episodes were also more likely to have scarring of the liver (fibrosis).

There is speculation circulating as to the cause of the connection. Some doctors believe the loss of oxygen from sleep apnea sessions may increase chronic inflammation, exacerbating fatty liver. At first, fat in the liver may be harmless, but inflammation can turn the fat into scar tissue, eventually leading to liver failure.

What This Could Mean for You …

If you suffer from sleep apnea, these research findings have several implications for you.

First, seeking treatment (such as oral appliance therapy) is critical to avoid the condition from worsening. And, you need to keep on top of your health with regular visits to your doctor, who may screen for fatty liver disease and other systemic problems. This is especially true if you have severe sleep apnea.

As our team noted last year, sleep apnea is on the rise in the United States, so it is important to be attuned to possible symptoms (e.g., morning headaches, waking up in the middle of the night gasping/choking) and, if there are concerns, get screened.

If you have not yet been diagnosed, but believe you (or your significant other) may suffer from sleep apnea, please contact New Jersey Sleep Apnea Solutions to confirm the diagnosis and explore treatment options. Call us at (855) 949-7667 today.