One major consequence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea is impaired cognitive functioning. A recent publishing of the American Thoracic Society shows that a high prevalence of mild cognitive impairment has been reported in patients referred to sleep clinics for suspected OSA. Side effects of OSA include decreased blood oxygen saturation, and conscious or unconscious arousal (wake-up events) during the night. Significant neurological problems including stroke, depression, headaches, and neuropathy, are also potential issues that will arise. Cognitive deficits can present in all age groups, and can affect memory, attention and executive functions.
Children with OSA who exhibit changes in behavior may struggle with proper development. If treated early, children and adults will have an improved quality of life.
Investigators of this study sought to establish the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment individuals with suspected OSA, and determine who may be at the highest risk for development of mild cognitive impairment. These patients did not have a known diagnosis, nor had received treatment for at least 6 months. After completing the proper sleep and medical history forms, OSA was either diagnosed by HSAT or PSG. Mild cognitive impairment was reported in 47.9% of patients, which increased to more than 55.3% in those with moderate and severe OSA (main demographic being older men who had more severe OSA and other comorbidities).
The conclusion of the study was that moderate to severe OSA is an independent risk factor for mild cognitive impairment. To establish the most optimal treatment for each age group to prevent cognitive dysfunctions, additional research is needed for decreasing the overall number of patients with OSA who progress from mild cognitive impairment to the full stages of dementia.
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