Fatty Liver Disease and Sleep Apnea

fat man sleep photo
Photo by CGP Grey
Sleep apnea and fatty liver disease, conditions that are each thought to affect more than 10 million Americans, have a lot in common. But until recently, it was believed that these afflictions were unrelated; new research indicates they may be linked, and that each may impact the severity of the other.

If you live in the greater Austin area and you or a family member suffers from chronic snoring or other symptoms of sleep apnea, please call Dr. Dan Matthews at 512-452-2273 to schedule your consultation or to learn more about sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment. Backed by extensive training in the field of neuromuscular dentistry, Dr. Matthews has helped a number of patients restore healthy, restful sleep.

Connecting the Dots

Fatty liver disease—a buildup of fat in the liver—and sleep apnea often strike those who are overweight or obese. Both conditions often occur together, and they also often go unnoticed because their symptoms are somewhat vague to those suffering from the diseases.

Recent research suggests the two conditions may be more closely related than previously thought. Last year, Chest—the journal of the American College of Chest Physicians—published the findings of a study that reviewed nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in patients with sleep apnea. Researchers examined 226 obese, middle-aged men and women who exhibited signs of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a life-threatening sleep disorder known to increase a person’s risk for severe health problems including heart disease, hypertension and stroke. Two-thirds of the patients in the study were also found to have fatty liver disease, which seemed to increase the severity of sleep apnea.

Another study, the findings of which were published last year in The Journal of Pediatrics, found a similar correlation between OSA and fatty liver disease. That study focused on obese children between the ages of 10 and 18 who were diagnosed with fatty liver disease; 60 percent of the study participants were also diagnosed with sleep apnea, and the worse their sleep apnea episodes (the periods of not breathing during sleep), the more likely they were to have scarring of the liver.

At the very least, these studies indicate that people who suffer from sleep apnea and exhibit certain risk factors, such as obesity, should also be checked for fatty liver disease.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

Despite the health risks of sleep apnea, the condition is treatable. And you may be surprised to learn that a good first line of defense is a visit with your dentist.

Snoring and sleep apnea can often be successfully treated with a custom-made oral appliance that is similar to a sports mouthguard. These comfortable, form-fitting devices are designed to help patients maintain open airways during sleep.

There are different forms of sleep apnea, and their cause and severity varies by individual. Likewise, there are different types of oral appliances and other sleep apnea treatments to meet those individual needs.

For additional information about sleep apnea or to schedule a consultation, please contact Dan Matthews, DDS, online or call our office at 512-452-2273. Dr. Matthews welcomes patients from the greater Austin, Texas, area.

Dan Matthews DDS
Dan Matthews Dan Matthews DDS The Park at Eanes Creek,
4407 Bee Cave Road
Building 2, Suite 221
Austin, Texas, 78746
(512) 452-2273
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