In diabetic patients, sleep apnea may lead to complete kidney failure. Some people with diabetes develop a condition called diabetic nephropathy, or kidney damage caused by their diabetes. Over time the condition destroys the kidneys to a point that they cannot function.
Scientists have discovered that patients with type 2 diabetes who have sleep apnea may be more likely to have diabetic nephropathy than diabetes patients without sleep apnea.
For this study, Abd Tahrani, PhD, with the Centre of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at the University of Birmingham and Department of Diabetes and Endocrinology at Heart of England National Health Service Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom, and colleagues followed 224 patients with type 2 diabetes.
The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea was noted in 144 of the patients, and 90 of them had diabetic nephropathy. Patients with sleep apnea tended to be older and overweight. They usually had higher blood pressure and typically had diabetes for a longer duration than others in the study.
Diabetic nephropathy was more often found in patients with sleep apnea than in those without. About 49 percent of individuals with sleep apnea had diabetic nephropathy, compared with 24 percent of those who did not have sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea increases oxidative stress. As people breathe in oxygen and their cells produce energy, molecules called free radicals are created. The radicals place oxidative stress on cells.
Oxidative stress damages healthy cells, and for diabetes patients with OSA, the higher level of oxidative stress appears to contribute to kidney damage, according to the authors of this study.
Diabetic neuropathy is the leading cause of end-stage renal (kidney) disease. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) advises anyone with type 2 diabetes or hypertension to be evaluated for sleep apnea.