At this year’s International Stroke Conference hosted by the American Stroke Association, a study provided more evidence that those who suffer from sleep apnea are at an increased risk of developing silent strokes. Silent strokes can only be detected by a brain imaging scanner, such as an MRI or a CT scan, making them much different and much more frightening than major strokes. Those who experience silent strokes are rarely aware of the neurological deficit that occurs until scarring develops on the brain, which is why the strokes are known as silent.

The study, conducted by researchers at Dresden University in Germany, involved 56 patients who had been previously hospitalized for major strokes. The patients were placed into two distinct groups: the first included those who had suffered from silent strokes; while the second had not experienced these particular strokes. Chronic damage to the blood vessels in the brain was also a factor considered in the study.

Each of the 56 patients were then sent to overnight sleep tests, and it was found that 91 percent were suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. The study was not able to determine whether OSA could be a predictor of silent strokes, a cause or a symptom, however, as OSA was present in subjects from both groups of patients.

Despite the findings, the possible link between sleep apnea and silent strokes is disturbing; as more than 12 million Americans are currently suffering from obstructive sleep, apnea and many of them have gone undiagnosed and/or untreated.

If you are suffering from common sleep apnea symptoms, such as fatigue, a lack of energy and daytime drowsiness, you may be suffering from sleep apnea and could be at risk of developing silent strokes. It is important to undergo a sleep study if you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, and seek treatment if you have already been diagnosed. Contact Dr. Siegel today to learn more about sleep apnea and available treatment options.