Complications of obstructive sleep apnoea 

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) can sometimes lead to further problems, such as high blood pressure, if it is not treated.

High blood pressure

Evidence suggests OSA can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension).

This may not cause any obvious symptoms in itself, but it can increase your risk of potentially serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy, balanced diet can all help prevent high blood pressure, as can the appropriate treatment of OSA, such as using breathing apparatus while you sleep.

Read more about treating high blood pressure.

Road traffic accidents

As someone with poorly controlled OSA can experience excessive daytime sleepiness, they have an increased risk of being involved in a life-threatening accident, such as a car crash. Their risk of having a work-related accident also increases.

Research has shown someone who has been deprived of sleep because of OSA may be up to 12 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.

If you are diagnosed with OSA, it may mean your ability to drive is affected. It is your legal obligation to inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) about a medical condition that could have an impact on your driving ability.

Once a diagnosis of OSA has been made, you should not drive until your symptoms are well controlled.

The GOV.UK website has advice about how to tell the DVLA about a medical condition.

Diabetes

OSA has also been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is a lifelong condition that causes a person's blood sugar (glucose) level to become too high. It may occur in people with OSA if your body becomes less able to break down glucose properly.

However, it is not clear whether people develop diabetes as a direct result of OSA, or whether it is the result of an underlying cause of the condition, such as obesity.

Page last reviewed: 01/07/2014

Next review due: 01/07/2016