Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is identified by frequent prolonged pauses of breathing. Each pause is called an apnea. Such a pause could last from a few seconds to a minute and could happen 5-30 times or more an hour.
There are 3 types of apnea:
Central apnea – breathing is interrupted by a lack of respiratory effort
Obstructive apnea – breathing is interrupted by a physical block to the airway, despite respiratory effort where snoring is common
Complex apnea – a combination of the first two
It seems that obstructive apnea (OSA) is the most common and develops due to obesity, smoking and age. Patients with diabetes have a three fold risk of developing OSA.
Having sleep apnea means that the bloodstream is starved of oxygen which begins the process of cell disintegration that produces an excess of uric acid. With every pause in breathing, more uric acid is fed into the bloodstream until the kidneys can no longer cope with the quantity. This also leads to increased carbon dioxide in the blood that influences the blood pH. It affects the body’s ability to keep the uric acid in solution and make it more likely to precipitate. A gout attack could flair up overnight triggered by the sudden rise in uric acid levels.
As the patient rises in the morning, the pauses in breathing stops and the kidneys have time to return the uric acid levels to normal. For this reason a blood test would probably be normal.
Though most people don’t even know that they have sleep apnea, it is fairly common. In some cases gout is an early warning sign of sleep apnea. If left untreated, it can greatly increase the risk of developing life-threatening diseases such as diabetes, stroke, heart arrhythmia, heart disease or death.
The results of sleep apnea may include the following:
Poor memory and attention
The only way to positively diagnose sleep apnea is to have a polysomnogram or a sleep study done.
According to a study done at the Clinical Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, UK (2007) it seems that more evidence is emerging linking sleep disorders to the prevalence of disease in chronic conditions. Unfortunately the relationship between the sleep processes and diseases are not studied much.
In many cases an acute gout attack may be the early warning sign to get tested for sleep apnea before any of the serious diseases develop that could cause irreversible damage to your health.