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You may have heard of apnea, which is a pause in your breathing, often while sleeping. But do you know how it can be connected to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)? Keep reading to find out.

The term “idiopathic” means the cause of a disease is unknown. And while there are several risk factors, the onset and progression of IPF are also not well known. The course of the disease varies with each person. In general, symptoms are:

  • shortness of breath
  • a dry cough
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • enlargement (called clubbing) of your fingertips and nails

IPF is often difficult to diagnose in its early stages. Here’s where apnea may provide a helpful clue: Recent studies of people with IPF showed that up to 88 percent also had obstructive sleep apnea.

While the connection still needs to be researched, a 2015 article in European Respiratory Review suggests the following:

  • If a person with IPF is exhibiting daytime sleepiness or other symptoms that could be related to sleep apnea, their doctor may recommend at-home or in-lab sleep testing.
  • Common biomarkers should be looked for, which would help in earlier diagnosis of IPF.
  • Treatment for apnea may improve the quality of life and longevity of people with IPF.

The same article also suggests that obstructive sleep apnea may play a more direct role in “favoring” the development of IPF or having an impact on the progression of the disease.

More research into the connection between IPF and sleep apnea clearly has to be done. However, people with either condition should consider checking for the other.

Snoring is pretty common, but if your snoring is a result of obstructive sleep apnea, it can have serious consequences.

If you have sleep apnea, your breathing can pause during sleep for a few seconds or longer. Or you may take only shallow breaths. In both cases, your blood oxygen level drops, and your sleep is disrupted.

The snore sound actually signals that you have resumed normal breathing. This may happen many times an hour during the night.

The poor quality sleep of apnea can lead to fatigue and sleepiness during the day. The National Blood, Heart, and Lung Institute warns that if apnea is untreated, it can increase your risk of other illnesses and complications, including:

The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) estimates that 22 million people have sleep apnea in the United States. The ASAA also notes that 80 percent of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea cases are undiagnosed.

Because sleep apnea happens when you’re sleeping, it can be difficult to diagnose in a doctor’s office. If you or your doctor suspect you may be living with obstructive sleep apnea, they may send you to a sleep clinic, where your sleep is monitored.

A common apnea treatment is a device you use during sleep that supplies you with continuous positive airway pressure. Sometimes, if there is an underlying condition present, such as a nasal obstruction, treatment of that condition may stop the apnea from occurring.

When it comes to IPF and sleep apnea, most of the current medical research focuses on helping people with IPF find treatment for apnea to make them more comfortable and possibly help their longevity. The reverse is also important.

If you have obstructive sleep apnea and believe you also have some IPF symptoms, ask your doctor to check for the condition. If you diagnose IPF early enough, you’ll have a much better outcome.