Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and asthma: what are the links?

J Clin Sleep Med. 2009 Feb 15;5(1):71-8.


Recent data suggest that obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is an independent risk factor for asthma exacerbations. Neuromechanical reflex bronchoconstriction, gastroesophageal reflux, inflammation (local and systemic), and the indirect effect on dyspnea of OSAS-induced cardiac dysfunction have been suggested as mechanisms that lead to worsening asthma control in patients with concomitant OSAS. Vascular endothelial growth factor-induced airway angiogenesis, leptin-related airway changes, and OSAS-induced weight gain also may play a common mechanistic role linking both disorders. Several studies have confirmed that asthmatic patients are more prone to develop OSAS symptoms than are members of the general population. The common asthmatic features that promote OSAS symptoms are nasal obstruction, a decrease in pharyngeal cross sectional area, and an increase in upper airway collapsibility. Clarifying the nature of the relationship between OSAS and asthma is a critical area with important therapeutic implications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Bronchi / blood supply
  • Bronchoconstriction / physiology
  • Comorbidity
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology
  • Glottis / innervation
  • Heart Failure / complications
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Laryngeal Nerves / physiopathology
  • Leptin / physiology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Reflex, Abnormal / physiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / complications
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Vagus Nerve / physiopathology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / physiology
  • Weight Gain / physiology


  • Leptin
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A