TUESDAY May 18, 2021 (HealthDay News) – People with severe obstructive sleep apnea are at greater risk of catching COVID-19, according to a new study.
But researchers at Kaiser Permanente Southern California also found that the more patients used a continuous positive pressure mask (CPAP) while they slept, the lower their risk of COVID-19.
For the study, a team led by pulmonologist Dr. Dennis Hwang collected data on nearly 82,000 U.S. patients who were assessed for sleep disorders between 2015 and 2020.
Of these, nearly 1,500 would test positive for COVID-19 infection. A total of 224 were hospitalized and 61 were hospitalized and / or died.
Untreated sleep apnea was associated with a higher rate of COVID-19 infection, the results showed.
“Greater PAP adherence, when the treatment was used at least four hours per night during the pandemic period, also showed a reduced infection rate,” the researchers reported.
The study also linked obesity, more chronic illnesses, and being on Medicaid to higher COVID-19 infection rates. Black and Hispanic patients also had higher COVID-19 infection rates.
Although older people are generally at a higher risk of infection with SARS-CoV-2, the study linked increasing age to a reduced rate of infection.
The researchers were also surprised to find that patients with apnea who used their CPAP therapy often had even lower COVID-19 infection rates than patients without apnea at all.
“This further confirms a direct physiological benefit of [CPAP] therapy, ”Hwang said in an American Thoracic Society press release.
Hwang said biological and behavioral factors may be involved in the relationship between apnea and the risk of COVID-19.
“The higher rate of infection with more severe obstructive sleep apnea and the medical risk factors shared between sleep apnea and COVID-19 such as males, obesity and the presence of cardiovascular disease support a biological influence, perhaps through an impact on respiratory function, airway inflammation, and sleep fragmentation, ”he said.
At the same time, the link between advanced age and reduced rates of COVID infection supports a behavioral explanation, Hwang said. Patients with apnea tend to be older, and older patients may be more cautious of masking, social distancing and other pandemic-related behaviors, he said.
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