It sure sounds like a mouthful: white matter hyperintensities. But what are they? White matter hyperintensities are lesions on the brain that could indicate aging of the brain and could be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. These indicators are used by doctors to measure the risk of Alzheimer’s, but now their presence has been found to be worse in people with sleep apnea, another dangerous side-effect of this serious medical condition.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes those affected to struggle to breathe during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when there is a blockage to the airway. This blockage is dangerous enough in and of itself, but it can be worsened by comorbid conditions like cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and of course, Alzheimer’s disease. Sleep apnea can cause decreased cognitive function during the day, a condition that could be dangerous, affecting everything from job performance to driving.
This new link between sleep apnea and white matter hyperintensities comes as another blow to those suffering from sleep apnea but highlights the need for treatment of this dangerous condition.
If you have sleep apnea, don’t despair. There are ways to actively treat sleep apnea – especially obstructive sleep apnea. First, speak to your doctor or sleep specialist about beginning a fitness routine. Another recent study has found that those who embarked on a fitness journey were able to reduce sleep apnea symptoms and improve brain function.
Next, speak to Dr. Abelar about prescribing a sleep orthotic known as a MAD. These oral appliances are custom molded to fit your individual mouth and fit comfortably in the mouth like a nightguard or retainer. They prop the airway open by repositioning the mouth so that you can breathe naturally while you sleep.
While the study did not say if treating sleep apnea had any effect on the presence of white matter hyperintensities, we do know that treating sleep apnea can improve your quality of life and lessen the severity of some comorbid conditions.
To learn more about your obstructive sleep apnea treatment options, please contact Dr. Abelar’s office today and schedule a consultation today.