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What is the connection between Sleep Apnea and PCOS?

By Anonymous April 17, 2011 - 6:58pm
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I was recently diagnosed with PCOS and have a history of OSA. I was wondering what the tie is between PCOS and OSA... Do women with PCOS typically have OSA because of being overweight or is it due to the hormone issues associated with PCOS? I am within a healthy weight range so I am wondering whether my having OSA was just a coincidence or if it is being caused by the PCOS. Thanks!

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EmpowHER Guest

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May 9, 2012 - 4:31pm

Howdy Anon!

One other item you may want to research is the possibility of a thyroid issue as well. Obviously any type of hormonal variation can create problems, but many people are unaware of how much the thyroid hormones can affect your health too.

If you think it is worth investigating, make sure that you have the doctor test for more than just the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). There is a ton of research out there on testing for Free T4 and Free T3, which are the actual amounts of the hormone available to your body.

These hormones have found their way into more and more research regarding PCOS and OSA, and may be worth looking into. As I am sure you have figured out, checking out all avenues of your health can be extremely beneficial!

Good luck, and great job taking control of your health.

April 18, 2011 - 5:25pm
HERWriter Guide

Hi Anon

Thanks for your question - it's a great one - and welcome!

You're correct that being heavy can cause sleep apnea (but this is certainly not always the case, of course) and one of the symptoms of PCOS is being heavy. But as you can see, one may cause a condition and one may be symptomatic of a condition, which means there is no correlation at all for some women.

However, this isn't the case with all women. According to the The University of Chicago Medical Center, "Studies conducted at the University of Chicago have confirmed the exceptionally high risk of obstructive sleep apnea among women with PCOS. While it is clear that increased body weight contributes to this risk, women with PCOS seem to be at high risk as a consequence of other factors in addition to weight. For example, the high testosterone levels in PCOS also seem to play a role in the development of sleep apnea."

You can read more about that here: http://www.uchospitals.edu/specialties/pcos/risks.html

So yes, there is a strong connection for many women between PCOS and sleep apnea. This may be the case with you. Have you talked to your doctor about a possible connection and treatment options?

April 18, 2011 - 7:14am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Susan Cody)

Thanks for your response. I had surgery (tonsils/adenoids removed, deviated suptum corrected) last year to try to help the OSA and it did lessen the apnea, but it's not gone. When the PCOS discussion took place my GYN didn't mention anything about sleep apnea, I found that out through my own research. My OSA was in my medical history and she knew about it, but it was never brought up. I have a history of irregular periods and my fsh/lh levels were off so I was given bcp's to help regulate my cycle. Since I started researching PCOS I am just wondering if more testing should have been done to see if I have any other symptoms, such as the high testosterone and insulin resistance issues. I am only 25 and in general good health and I want to be prepared for any future complications of this syndrome.

April 18, 2011 - 9:23am
HERWriter Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hi again Anon!

Your doctor may have been unaware of these studies - you'd be amazed at how informed patients can inform doctors! She may not have even known this (unfortunately).

I would talk to your doctor about this correlation (don't let her brush it aside as if there is no evidence of a connection - there IS) and ask her if further testing is a good idea.

at 25, you have a long life ahead of you and you may some day want children, or be a candidate for other conditions that the conditions you have right now may cause. Knowing this now can prepare you better for the future, as you said.

I think it's a good idea to put a call in and request an appointment. Good job on doing your own research and staying informed. Keep us posted!

April 18, 2011 - 12:20pm
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