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kltvSUNDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- People who wake up during the night to urinate shouldn't automatically blame a urological problem. Sleep apnea, a breathing-related sleep disorder, could be the cause.

A new study suggests that nighttime urination, or nocturia, is comparable to loud snoring as a marker for obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which soft tissue in the throat blocks the flow of air into the lungs, disrupting sleep.

Previous studies established a link between nocturia and sleep apnea, a potentially serious condition that affects about 25 percent of U.S. men and 10 percent of U.S. women, the researchers said. But they believe this is among the first to show that screening for nocturia could help doctors identify patients with apnea.

The study also suggests that a common treatment for sleep apnea -- positive airway pressure (PAP) therapy -- can reduce symptoms of nocturia, thereby improving sleep and preventing debilitating falls among elderly people who get out of bed at night to use the bathroom.

PAP involves wearing a pressurized air mask while sleeping.

Typically, doctors screen for apnea by assessing patients' weight (the condition is associated with overweight/obesity) and asking if they snore heavily, notice breathing problems at night or feel tired during the day (because of interrupted sleep). But because many patients, especially those who sleep alone, are unaware that they snore, apnea often goes undiagnosed.

"When you ask people about symptoms like snoring and gasping, they tend to say, 'No, I don't have them'," said study author Edward Romero, research coordinator at the Sleep and amp; Human Health Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. "But it's very easy for them to realize that they wake up at night to go to the bathroom."

One of Romero's co-authors, institute director Dr. Barry Krakow, said doctors and patients are quick to blame nocturia on diabetes, prostate enlargement and other medical conditions with which it is associated.


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