A Clinical Advisor report indicates that obstructive sleep apnea, believed to cause inflammation and oxidative stress, may also contribute to the development of Parkinson disease.

Parkinson disease (PD) is a neurological malady that causes tremors, bradykinesia, muscle rigidity, and postural instability. It affects about 1-2% of adults over the age of 60. Idiopathic Parkinson disease is more commonly seen in males.

Until recently, there have been limited studies investigating the association of OSA with the development of PD. For years, we have known that other sleep disorders are seen in patients with PD, including insomnia, restless leg syndrome, hypersomnia, and REM sleep behavior disorder.

In this retrospective longitudinal cohort study of over 9,000 participants, female patients who had OSA were found to have a significant risk of developing Parkinson disease during a 5 year follow-up period.

The reason for the association between PD and OSA is not known, but it is postulated that there is a relationship between cerebrovascular disease and vascular risk factors seen in these 2 groups. There is thought that the repetitive intermittent hypoxia during apnea may activate an immune response that may affect the dopaminergic system.

The reason why this affects women more than men is unclear, but could be related to the fact that OSA is usually underdiagnosed in women, or is not diagnosed until symptoms have reached a severe stage.

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