Study Objectives: To explore associations between obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and autoimmune diseases and evaluate whether OSA management reduces the incidence of autoimmune diseases. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study using nationwide database research. The data was from 105,846 adult patients in whom OSA was diagnosed and recorded in the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database between 2002 and 2011 were the patients were analyzed retrospectively. Patients with antecedent autoimmune diseases were excluded. A comparison cohort of 423,384 participants without OSA served as age- and sex-matched controls. Multivariable Cox regression analysis was performed on both cohorts to compute risk of autoimmune diseases during follow-up. Time dependent OSA treatment effect was analyzed among patients with OSA. There were no interventions. Results: Among patients with OSA, overall risk for incident autoimmune diseases was significantly higher than that in controls (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 1.95, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.66-2.27). Risk for individual autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Sjögren syndrome (SS), and Behçet disease, was significantly higher in patients with OSA than in controls (HRs [95% CI]: RA 1.33 [1.03-1.72, SS 3.45 [2.67-4.45] and Behçet disease 5.33 [2.45-12.66]). Increased risk for systemic lupus erythematosus (HR 1.00 [0.54-1.84]) and systemic sclerosis (HR 1.43 [0.51-3.96]) did not reach statistical significance. Patients with OSA receiving treatment had an overall reduced risk of RA and other autoimmune diseases (time-dependent HRs [95% CI]: 0.22 [0.05-0.94] and 0.51 [0.28-0.92], respectively). Conclusions: Patients with OSA are associated with higher risk for developing RA, SS, and Behçet disease. OSA management is associated with reduced risk of RA.
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