Sleep apnea may be linked with joint pain and fatigue in postmenopausal women, a new study suggests.
“This study highlights an opportunity to increase identification of women with OSA [obstructive sleep apnea], which is underdiagnosed in women who often present with vague symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue and morning headaches. According to these findings, joint pain may be another symptom that should prompt consideration of a diagnosis of OSA in women,” said Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
Sleep apnea is 4.5 times more common in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women, perhaps due to a decrease in sex hormones after menopause. Postmenopausal women also have higher rates of joint pain, which is also associated with hormone changes.
Previous studies have shown a link between the severity of hot flashes and the risk of sleep apnea in middle-aged women, but the connection between sleep apnea and other common menopause symptoms has been unclear.
This study found a significant association between sleep apnea and joint pain. This may be because joint tissues have estrogen receptors, and estrogen plays a role in the health of tissues such as cartilage, ligaments and muscles, the researchers said in a NAMS news release.
Larger studies are needed to verify the findings, but the results suggest the need for research of sleep-disordered breathing in women with severe joint paint and fatigue to help identify women with sleep apnea, according to the study published online March 2 in Menopause, a NAMS journal.
Preventing and treating sleep apnea in older women is also important because it’s a risk factor for high blood pressure and diabetes, which can contribute to heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide.
There’s more on sleep apnea at the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
SOURCE: North American Menopause Society, news release, March 2, 2022