Overlap Syndrome refers to diseases that overlap each other where the combined effect is worse than either disease alone. Two conditions that often overlap are COPD and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).
COPD is not a new disease, as it existed but was ignored long before cigarette use was widespread. Though OSA is associated with obesity, it’s not limited to obesity and 22 million people are diagnosed in the U.S alone.
The most common factor of both conditions is low oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia), and with the overlap, a person can have 30 times more episodes of desaturations at night. This puts a strain on the right side of the heart, which can lead to pulmonary hypertension.
People with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis might also fall victim to Overlap Syndrome because studies show that more than 80% also have OSA.
Treatment of Overlap Syndrome is the same as if treating each disease individually, with the primary emphasis on maintaining normal oxygen saturation levels. The main treatments are inhaled bronchodilators and CPAP to treat sleep apnea.
If you have COPD or Pulmonary Fibrosis and find yourself having difficulty sleeping, you should ask your physician about being tested for OSA. Having the right treatments for all conditions can significantly help to avoid problems that can be a result of Overlap Syndrome.