Team photograph of Dr Axelrad & staff

Sleep Apnea and Hypothyroidism

Posted on by Dr. Robert Axelrad (Brampton Dentist)

Over the past few weeks we have discussed the links between sleep apnea and various medical conditions.

I feel it is important to spend a little time discussing these links because they will help to explain certain conditions that you may suffer from (I.e. hypertension), in addition to how you are feeling, both physically and mentally.

By knowing that there are links between sleep apnea and certain medical conditions, you may be able to say to yourself, “ I know I snore, I feel very tired during the day, I’m overweight, I have high blood pressure”…“Maybe the reason for these issues is that I have sleep apnea.”

It really is all about awareness.

This may encourage you to go for a sleep study which may very well lead to a diagnosis of some degree (mild, moderate or severe) of sleep apnea: This in turn may motivate you to make some necessary changes in your life I.e. weight loss through exercising and diet, decreasing alcohol consumption, quitting smoking to name a few.

In addition, a diagnosis of sleep apnea through a sleep study may lead you to getting a CPAP machine or wearing a Mandibular Advancing Device (see blog “Let’s look at the different ways to open up the airway and prevent snoring “ posted on July 29th, 2013) to open up your airway and get the necessary oxygen that your organs need.

In this blog, we will briefly discuss the link between hypothyroidism and obstructive sleep apnea.

What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid produces insufficient amounts of the hormone Thyroxin and some other thyroid hormones as well. A lack of Thyroxin causes one to feel very tired, gain weight, lose muscle tone and may also lead to sleep apnea.

An Insufficient amount of Iodine in the diet is the major cause of Hypothyroidism.

The Link Between Hypothyroidism and Sleep Apnea
One of the more prevalent symptoms of Hypothyroidism is swelling of the tongue and other soft tissues in the mouth and throat.
When we are awake and in an upright position, breathing is not too difficult. However, while asleep and lying on our backs (supine position), is another issue. At this time, the tongue and other muscles and soft tissues at the back of the throat are more relaxed and tend to fall backwards…this contributes to an obstruction.

In individuals with Hypothyroidism, the swollen tongue and other tissues will further add to this obstruction worsening the effect of the sleep apnea.
It is well known that hypothyroidism is the cause of the sleep apnea and not vice versa.

Treatment
Treating the Hypothyroidism is quite effective at lessening the degree of sleep apnea. Treatment involves taking a small pill in the mornings called Thyroxin.

Conclusion
When you reduce the amount of obstruction at the back of the throat (in the airway), the degree of sleep apnea will improve.

Yours in good health,

Dr. Robert Axelrad, Brampton Dentist

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