Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and type 2 diabetes have been linked together for a long time. Research into the link indicates that OSA may cause or worsen type 2 diabetes. This relationship has led many scientists to believe that treatment of OSA might improve the symptoms of patients with both disorders. However, this idea is an on-going debate. One treatment of OSA, known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), has had conflicting reports.

What are CPAP Treatments?

Continuous positive airway pressure, otherwise known as CPAP, is a ventilator typically used by people who have problems breathing during their sleep time. The machine applies mild air pressure on a continuous basis in order to always keep airways open. CPAP treatments are most effective on patients who have obstructive sleep apnea.

The Two Studies

In a recent study conducted by the Autonama University of Madrid, CPAP treatments appeared to have had a positive effect on glycemic control in patients with OSA and type 2 diabetes. The study tested 50 people who have OSA, and whose type 2 diabetes was not well controlled. They found that after 6 months, there seemed to be an improvement in glycemic control.

Conversely, results from another study suggest that CPAP use may not have any effect on type 2 diabetes. Researchers randomly assigned a group of 298 patients who have OSA and well-controlled type 2 diabetes, to either receive CPAP or regular care. Their results showed that glycated hemoglobin levels in patients using CPAP did not show any more change than those using regular care.

Both studies were published in the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Atul Malhotra, MD, President of the American Thoracic Society and a sleep expert, was not a part of either study.

Dr. Malhotra suggest that the “Differences in race and ethnicity and changes in diet, exercise and metabolism that may occur with CPAP, may have also contributed to the different findings.” She also noted that the “differences in glucose control at baseline and the relatively small size of the studies” may have contributed to the difference results as well. In the end, Dr. Malhotra believes more research is needed.