Evaluation of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Female Patients in Primary Care: Time for Improvement?

Med Princ Pract. 2021;30(6):508-514. doi: 10.1159/000518932. Epub 2021 Aug 26.


Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has historically been regarded as a male disease. However, there are a number of significant gender-related differences in the symptoms, diagnosis, and consequences of OSA, which seems to be more severe in male than in female patients, although this sex difference decreases with increasing age. Female patients with OSA tend to present nonspecific symptoms, such as insomnia, depressive symptoms, fatigue, morning headache, and nightmares, often resulting in underdiagnosis and undertreatment compared to male patients. Understanding these differences in women is essential for early identification and referral of patients for diagnosis and treatment of OSA.

Keywords: Clinical presentation; Gender; Obstructive sleep apnea; Outcomes; Therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause
  • Polysomnography*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Quality of Life
  • Sex Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / therapy
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / diagnosis
  • Sleep Wake Disorders* / therapy