Overlap syndrome is considered to be relatively new to medicine. As you might have expected, the term refers to diseases that overlap one another so that the combined effect of multiple diseases or conditions are worse than either one alone. Currently, there are many examples of overlap syndrome in the medicine field, especially with auto-immune diseases such as lupus and arthritis.
But did you know that people who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) might be experiencing overlap syndrome? With more studies available, researchers have found that COPD patients could be suffering from more than severe COPD symptoms. What does overlap syndrome have to do with COPD? Do you have it?
COPD and Overlap Syndrome
COPD, as you may know, is a progressive form of lung disease that includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Symptoms include ongoing coughing, increased mucus, shortness of breath, fatigue and wheezing. Approximately 24 million Americans are living with COPD, but only half of them have been diagnosed with the condition. This means that a number of people are living with these severe symptoms and sudden flare-ups periodically. But what if you just didn’t have COPD?
One example of overlap syndrome involves COPD and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a sleep disorder defined as the unconscious stoppage of breathing for short periods of time throughout a night’s sleep. COPD and OSA can present the same symptoms, which makes overlap syndrome that much harder to discover and properly diagnose. This condition occurs in 10-15 percent of COPD patients, and is associated with reduced blood oxygen levels during sleep. Some studies have found that people with overlap syndrome have an increased risk of respiratory failure and pulmonary hypertension than individuals with just OSA or COPD alone.
More recently, overlap syndrome has been found involving both COPD and asthma. Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways within the body. Asthma-COPD overlap syndrome (ACOS) shares many of the same characteristics of both conditions—shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing being similar symptoms—which doctors have recently started to research. Of course, more time is needed to study this form of overlap syndrome.
Diagnosing overlap syndrome can provide helpful information that may help direct treatment for other underlying conditions. COPD patients who have symptoms of other conditions should talk to their doctor about the potential for overlap syndrome. If you or a loved one is interested in stem cell therapy for lung disease, then contact us at the Lung Institute to learn more or call (800) 729-3065 today.