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Newborn Screening vs. Sleep Apnea Screening

Posted Nov 28 2010 10:47pm

I recently came across an article that touted the importance of newborn screenings, such as for PKU,  hypothyroidism, galactosemia, and sickle cell disease. The rationale for these tests is that if detected, simple treatments can prevent serious health problems, or even death. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the incidence of these four conditions and found the following: PKU (1/50,000 births or .002%),  hypothyroidism (1/4,000 or .025%), galactosemia (1/60,000 or .002%), and sickle cell disease (1/1,000 or .1%).

While it’s important to pick up these rare, but treatable conditions.  But with the incidence of obstructive sleep apnea estimated at 24% for men and 9% for women, I wonder why it’s not screened for routinely. We know that untreated, sleep apnea can cause or aggravate high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and even early death. Your chances of getting into a car accident increases 4 to 7 times normal. With a number of simple screening tests as well as relatively reliable home sleep studies, this condition should be screened for on every routine physical exam. Doctors have to throw out everything that they learn about sleep apnea in medical school and training—that sleep apnea patients are typically overweight, snore, and have big necks. We now know that even young, thin women that don’t snore can have significant sleep apnea.

During your last visit for your annual physical exam, did your doctor ask your about sleep or about sleep apnea?

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