by Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
The NIH Press Call about the PCOS Workshop, reminded me to repost this article I wrote last summer. One of the things mentioned in the call is that women with PCOS who treat their Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) find that their PCOS symptoms subside. OSA is the involuntary closure of the upper airway which causes one to stop breathing while sleeping. Symptoms of OSA include: chronic loud snoring, gasping/choking episodes during sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.
It is important to understand the long-term health risks associated with the PCOS. Not all women with PCOS will develop OSA, but having PCOS does increase your risk. While it is clear that increased body weight contributes to this risk, women with PCOS seem to be at high risk as a consequence of other factors in addition to weight. Just last month a study was presented that helped to solidify the connection to these other factors.
David Ehrmann, M.D., of the University of Chicago found that women with PCOS and OSA are at least three times more likely to have prediabetes, compared to women without PCOS.
“In the last few years, sleep apnea has been found to be a frequent comorbidity [coexisting condition] with PCOS, and our study shows that women who have both conditions are at greatest risk of metabolic disturbances such as prediabetes,” says Dr. Ehrmann. “Patients who have one or both of these conditions should be screened early for type 2 diabetes and should be monitored regularly.”
The study also showed that blood sugar levels increased as women’s levels of the hormone progesterone decreased. Women with PCOS often have low progesterone levels and Dr. Ehrmann says that low progesterone may play a role in the obstructive sleep apnea.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is now the first-line therapy for OSA . CPAP is delivered by a machine with a tight-fitting face mask. The good news is that a study recently showed that when using a CPAP women with PCOS can see an improvement in blood pressure, metabolic function and insulin resistance.
Tasali E, Chapotot F, Leproult R, Whitmore H, Ehrmann DA. Treatment of obstructive sleep apnea improves cardiometabolic function in young obese women with polycystic ovary syndrome. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Feb;96(2):365-74. Epub 2010 Dec 1.