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Are Functional Dyspepsia and Sleep Apnea Related?

a woman's stomach hurts in bed because she has OSA-related functional dyspepsia

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Functional dyspepsia is one of the most common functional gastrointestinal disorders, affecting five to 20 percent of the global population. Marked by persistent upper abdominal discomfort, it presents a complex challenge in both diagnosis and management. On another front, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is characterized by repeated obstruction of the upper airway, which leads to oxygen insufficiency, elevated carbon dioxide levels, fragmented sleep, and microarousals during the night. 

Read on to learn about the possible connection between functional dyspepsia and sleep apnea, dissecting research to uncover how these seemingly disparate disorders relate.

Symptoms of Functional Dyspepsia 

Patients with functional dyspepsia experience a range of symptoms that cause disruptions in gastric physiological processes and take a toll on their quality of life. For instance, the condition has been associated with slow gastric emptying, where the stomach takes longer than usual to process food into the small intestine. 

Another notable consequence of this gastrointestinal disorder is the failure of the gastric fundus, the upper part of the stomach, to relax properly after a meal. This process often leads to persistent discomfort and pain. Those with this condition may experience gastric hypersensitivity, meaning the stomach becomes overly sensitive to distention or stretching and causes discomfort even while eating small amounts of food.

What Causes Functional Dyspepsia? 

While psychological stress, infection, and inflammation have been considered potential triggers for functional dyspepsia, the precise underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Functional dyspepsia is generally assessed using the Rome III symptom-based diagnostic criteria published by the Rome Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the diagnosis and treatment of functional gastrointestinal disorders. The Rome III criteria provide standardized definitions for the symptoms of these disorders, helping clinicians make accurate diagnoses and researchers conduct consistent studies.

Researchers continue to investigate how different factors interact to cause the complex symptoms of functional dyspepsia. They aim to help patients by shedding light on the relationship between physiological and environmental elements in the development of this condition.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Gastrointestinal Disorders 

Not only has obstructive sleep apnea been linked to heightened risks of hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disorders, but it has also exhibited connections with various gastrointestinal problems. 

For example, research has unveiled a correlation between OSA and gastroesophageal reflux, potentially implicating disrupted sleep patterns in gastrointestinal issues. Sleep disturbances, a hallmark of OSA, are also a potential trigger for functional gastrointestinal disorders, often leading to changes in intestinal sensitivity and overall gastrointestinal function. Studies have revealed OSA symptoms like inadequate sleep duration and reduced sleep quality may catalyze emotional, cognitive, and somatic effects.

Does Obstructive Sleep Apnea Cause Functional Dyspepsia? 

A study conducted at the Boramae Medical Center of Seoul National University aimed to investigate the potential connection between obstructive sleep apnea and functional dyspepsia, which involved a screening process for individuals with sleep-disordered breathing. A total of 79 patients were divided into no, mild, moderate, and severe OSA groups according to the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI). The lower the index value, the milder the OSA symptoms. 

Participants were also assessed using a validated Korean version of the Rome III criteria and categorized into two groups depending on whether they had functional dyspepsia. Afterward, those with this gastrointestinal condition were divided into those with epigastric pain syndrome (intermittent stomach pain) and postprandial distress syndrome (discomfort and bloating after eating).

The Study’s Results

Out of the 79 subjects, 84 percent were diagnosed with OSA. When analyzing the severity of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in functional dyspepsia, distinct patterns emerged. Notably, among patients with moderate OSA, 12 percent exhibited functional dyspepsia, whereas 22 percent of patients with severe OSA had the disorder. However, individuals with mild OSA did not show any instances. 

While the association between the two conditions was not statistically significant, the study suggested a potential link between the severity of OSA and the presence of functional dyspepsia. Results indicated that the group with functional dyspepsia had significantly higher values of arousal and AHI than those without. The group with severe OSA displayed more instances of postprandial distress syndrome when compared to those in the moderate OSA group. 

Would You Like to Learn More About the Link Between Functional Dyspepsia and Sleep Apnea? 

For reliable guidance in understanding the potential relationship between sleep apnea and gastrointestinal issues, we encourage you to reach out to specialists at Sunrise Orthodontics or Airway and Sleep Group. Get in touch today to arrange an appointment or gather further information.

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