FRIDAY, Oct. 28, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Surgery to remove all or part of an enlarged thyroid gland, known as a thyroidectomy, appears to reduce snoring and other symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, according to a new study.
Researchers compared symptoms in patients with obstructive sleep apnea before and eight weeks after they had a thyroidectomy. Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include snoring, disrupted breathing during sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.
After surgery, symptom scores improved dramatically and far fewer of the patients (51 percent versus 71 percent) were considered to be at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea.
"Obstructive sleep apnea is obviously a complex problem with numerous causes, but we find it encouraging that thyroidectomy alone can provide significant improvements in nearly a third of patients, regardless of gland size," study author Dr. Rebecca Sippel, chief of the Section of Endocrine Surgery at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, said in a news release from the American Thyroid Association.
Based on their findings, the researchers suggested that doctors check for an enlarged thyroid when evaluating patients with sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea, in which a person's airway becomes narrowed or blocked while sleeping, affects about 20 percent of the population and can increase a person's risk of death if left untreated, according to background information in the news release.
The study was slated for presentation Friday at the annual meeting of the American Thyroid Association in California. Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about sleep apnea.