Asthma Meds and Sleep Apnea Risk

Study Establishes Link

A study published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine provides evidence of a link between medication for asthma and sleep apnea risk. The study, which was headed by Dr. Mihaela Teodorescu of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, involved 18 subjects who were monitored after taking Flovent (or fluticasone), an inhaled corticosteroid commonly used to treat asthma. The patients were observed for changes in the “collapsibility” of their upper airways and tongue function; these things are known to contribute to sleep apnea. All 18 patients who were monitored in the study showed changes in their upper airways and tongue function consistent with sleep apnea.

Further Research Required

Though this study seems to demonstrate a connection between asthma meds – that is, inhaled corticosteroids such as fluticasone (Flovent) – and sleep apnea, more research is needed to determine the precise nature of this connection. A larger study would likely shed light on the association. The asthma meds in question have typically produced satisfactory results, and so more information is needed before a course of action can be prescribed. Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, noted that the findings of the study – changes in tongue function and upper airways – would commonly be associated with changes in vocal quality, and suggested that future research may benefit from input by speech pathologists and ENT specialists. In any event, Teodorescu recommended that, until better information becomes available, patients who’ve had success using such asthma meds should continue to use them, and seek medical counsel if they develop signs of sleep apnea.


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