Sleep apnea, which is a sleep disorder that is often not taken seriously by family, puts the person suffering from sleep apnea at an increased risk of having a silent stroke.
A small study even pointed out that those who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to have small lesions in their brain, proof of which shows up through imaging procedures like a CT scan or an MRI.
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that has roots in your airway passage. It is characterized by a disturbed state of sleep in which you pause breathing several times every hour while sleeping, for anything between a few seconds to a minute each time. Resumption of breathing is generally automatic and follows choking or gasping for breath.
The findings of the study on sleep apnea and silent stroke connection were presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2012 by the researchers of the Dresden University Stroke Center's Department of Neurology, Germany.
According to Jessica Kepplinger, M.D., the study's lead researcher and stroke fellow in the Dresden University Stroke Center, “We found a surprisingly high frequency of sleep apnea in patients with stroke that underlines its clinical relevance as a stroke risk factor. Sleep apnea is widely unrecognized and still neglected. Patients who had severe sleep apnea were more likely to have silent strokes and the severity of sleep apnea increased the risk of being disabled at hospital discharge.” (1)
A silent stroke is a medical event where the person does not feel or exhibit any visible and palpable symptom of a stroke like dizziness, weakness, inability to speak or partial paralysis of face muscles, etc.
In other words, a person who suffers a silent stroke is unaware that they have suffered a stroke. However, the stroke does damage their brain cells and puts them at an increased risk of having either a major stroke or a mini-stroke in the future. (2)
Some of the key findings of the research were:
• 91 percent of the patients who had a stroke also had sleep apnea and were more likely to have silent strokes.