Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly condition, but, with treatment, risks may be reduced. However, before treatment can start, we have to detect people with the condition. That’s where having additional screening techniques can be helpful. The more ways we can detect sleep apnea, the more likely we are to find it so we can then treat it.
That’s why the discovery of blood screening for sleep apnea as a potential approach is highly significant. It gives us a completely different approach to detecting sleep apnea and can lead to more people getting the treatment they need.
Biomarkers of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea impacts your entire body, and that means that it leaves marks that can be picked up in different ways. For example, the impact of sleep apnea on your blood pressure is so significant that elevated blood pressure is commonly considered as a sign of sleep apnea, especially if your blood pressure doesn’t respond to usual treatments.
Researchers have also found that some markers of sleep apnea can be found in your blood. For this study, researchers were looking for changes in three specific biomarkers: hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), C-reactive protein (CRP), and erythropoietin (EPO).
Researchers compared a combination of elevated levels of these three proteins with other common screening tools, including the Epworth sleepiness scale (ESS), and the STOP-BANG questionnaire. All screening tools were used for 264 subjects, who were first screened, then all given sleep tests. The study also used an asymptomatic control group to help ensure the accuracy of the tests.
The study showed that the blood tests had better sensitivity and specificity than either of the commonly used questionnaires. This, they argued, makes it a superior screening tool. It could be especially useful for patients who are already undergoing blood tests as part of a normal physical checkup, since the levels of these biomarkers could be checked alongside other warning signs.
You Need More Treatment Options, Too
Getting more screening options for sleep apnea is good. It will allow us to identify more of the people who have sleep apnea but don’t know it.
However, we also need to work on ensuring that more people are given access to more sleep apnea treatment options. Too many doctors start out by recommending CPAP for people, thinking it’s the only frontline treatment. However, there are many people who desperately need treatment, but don’t respond well to CPAP. This includes heart patients, veterans, and others. It’s important that these people understand that oral appliance therapy may give them better results.
If you want to learn more about the diagnosis or treatment of sleep apnea in Denver, please call (303) 691-0267 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.