HealthDay News — Patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) may be at higher risk for diabetic peripheral neuropathy, study results suggest.

To investigate the association between OSA and diabetic peripheral neuropathy, Abd A. Tahrani, MD, from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study of 234 adults with type 2 diabetes (mean age 57 years) from two U.K. hospitals. Findings were reported in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

The researchers used the Michigan Neuropathy Screening Instrument  to diagnose peripheral neuropathy, and assessed OSA (defined as apnea-hypopnea index ≥5 events/hour) using a home-based, multi-channel respiratory monitoring.

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Overall, 65% of participants had OSA (median apnea-hypopnea index, 7.2), with 40% having moderate to severe OSA.

Neuropathy prevalence was significantly higher in patients with OSA than those without OSA (60% vs. 27%; P<0.001), and this finding remained significant even after adjusting for potential confounders (odds ratio, 2.82; 95% CI:1.44-5.52; P=0.0034 ).

Nitrotyrosine and lipid peroxide levels were higher in participants with OSA and were associated with the severity of hypoxemia. In participants with OSA, cutaneous microvascular function was impaired.

“Additional prospective and interventional studies are also needed to examine the role of OSA and intermittent hypoxemia in the development and progression of diabetic peripheral neuropathy in patients with both early and advanced diabetes, and to assess the potential impact of continuous positive airway pressure treatment on diabetic peripheral neuropathy,” the researchers wrote.

The study was funded by the U.K. Novo Nordisk Research Foundation and Sanofi-Aventis.

Tahrani AA et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012; doi: 10.1164/rccm.201112-2135OC.