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Sleep apnea may increase joint pain, fatigue in older women

Reuters Health - 08/03/2022 - A study from Japan points to a link between obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) and increased joint pain and fatigue in postmenopausal women.

"Women complaining about their joint pains could be good candidates for a sleep-lab study to investigate if they have OSAS or not, especially when they are also suffering from fatigue," Dr. Masakazu Terauchi of Tokyo Medical and Dental University told Reuters Health by email.

Sleep apnea increases as women go through menopause, with the prevalence of sleep apnea 4.5 times higher in postmenopausal women than in premenopausal women. Joint pain is also more common after menopause. Both may be triggered by falling estrogen levels.

Dr. Terauchi and colleagues examined ties between sleep apnea parameters and various symptoms in 51 postmenopausal women with treatment-resistant sleep disorders, including seven (147%) diagnosed with OSAS.

During one night of sleep, the respiratory disturbance index (RDI), the number of abnormal breathing events per hour of sleep, and transcutaneous oxygen saturation (SpO2) were monitored using a portable monitoring device.

The researchers observed a significant association between a higher RDI (greater OSAS severity) and joint pain on the Questionnaire for Assessment of Climacteric Syndrome in Japanese Women, after adjusting for multiple confounding factors (P=0.016).

There was also a significant association between nadir SpO2 and fatigability on the Cornell Medical Index (P=0.007), the team reports in Menopause.

The results are in line with a 2020 study by the same researchers linking muscle and joint pain with insomnia in middle-aged women (https://bit.ly/34gsVuR).

Therefore, "it may not be very surprising that OSAS was shown to be associated with joint pains in another group of women," Dr. Terauchi told Reuters Health.

"This study highlights an opportunity to increase identification of women with OSA, which is underdiagnosed in women who often present with vague symptoms such as insomnia, fatigue, and morning headaches," Dr. Stephanie Faubion, medical director for The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), said in a news release.

"According to these findings, joint pain may be another symptom that should prompt consideration of a diagnosis of OSA in women," she added.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3sGQyWX Menopause, online March 2, 2022.

By Megan Brooks

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