Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Women: Specific Issues and Interventions

Biomed Res Int. 2016;2016:1764837. doi: 10.1155/2016/1764837. Epub 2016 Sep 6.

Abstract

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has traditionally been seen as a male disease. However, the importance of OSA in women is increasingly being recognized, along with a number of significant gender-related differences in the symptoms, diagnosis, consequences, and treatment of OSA. Women tend to have less severe OSA than males, with a lower apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and shorter apneas and hypopneas. Episodes of upper airway resistance that do not meet the criteria for apneas are more common in women. Prevalence rates are lower in women, and proportionally fewer women receive a correct diagnosis. Research has also documented sex differences in the upper airway, fat distribution, and respiratory stability in OSA. Hormones are implicated in some gender-related variations, with differences between men and women in the prevalence of OSA decreasing as age increases. The limited data available suggest that although the prevalence and severity of OSA may be lower in women than in men, the consequences of the disease are at least the same, if not worse for comparable degrees of severity. Few studies have investigated gender differences in the effects of OSA treatment. However, given the differences in physiology and presentation, it is possible that personalized therapy may provide more optimal care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Respiration
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology*