For years, we have been exploring the potential link between sleep apnea and chronic kidney disease (it’s why a nephrologist might recommend a sleep appliance). A number of studies have shown a significant link, but now a new study from Taiwan gives us some of the strongest evidence yet, and it shows that the link is independent of high blood pressure and diabetes.

woman sleeping peacefully in bed

An Independent Association

Most of the previous work on the link between sleep apnea and kidney disease involved small studies with limited data on which developed first. There wasn’t a good mechanism for determining causality or the ability to eliminate potential confounders like high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which can increase kidney disease risks.

But for this study, researchers were able to look at the medical records of over 43,000 individuals–including nearly 8700 with sleep apnea–from 2000 to 2010. Achieving an average of 3.9 years of patient follow-up allowed researchers to look at the risk of developing kidney disease for people with sleep apnea.

They found that, overall, people with sleep apnea were 58% more likely to develop chronic kidney disease. That’s after correcting for variables like hypertension, diabetes, medications, demographic factors and other potential confounders.

However, there was some information they didn’t have access to and therefore couldn’t account for in their study, such as obesity, severity of sleep apnea, tobacco use, and family history of kidney disease. They also note that because their population was entirely Asian, the results may not be completely pertinent to non-Asians.

A Direct Link

So, if there is a direct causal link between sleep apnea and chronic kidney disease, we have to find a good explanation for why sleep apnea causes kidney disease. In the past, high blood pressure or diabetes, which damages the filtration system of the kidneys, were blamed. With an independent risk, we have to look for specific causal factors. Researchers have proposed several. The most basic is that kidneys are damaged by deprivation of oxygen or blood. Other mechanisms include disruption of hormones that regulate the blood and elevated oxidative stress (exposure to free radicals that can damage tissues).

The establishment of this direct link reminds us that some sleep apnea effects impact the entire body, and even if you avoid some of the more common dangers, such as high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems, sleep apnea can still take a toll on your health. It’s important to get sleep apnea treatment that you can use in order to protect your health. If you are looking to learn whether you have sleep apnea or how to get help for your sleep apnea, please call (402) 493-4175 for an appointment with an Omaha sleep dentist at the advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center today.