Activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis has been reported in some patients with the obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). In current study, we investigated whether OSAS affect the screening test for subclinical Cushing’s disease using 0.5 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test (DST) in Japanese obese diabetic patients with OSAS. Among Japanese obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus who had been hospitalized in our department, we selected 20 patients with moderate to severe untreated OSAS (apnea-hypoxia index, AHI, of ≥15 events/hour). All patients underwent 0.5 mg DST. The same test was repeated in patients with positive response of it within a few days after continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. We found that five patients showed positive response of DST (25%). Three of these patients continued to use CPAP, and they showed normal response of DST after CPAP therapy. Serum cortisol after 0.5 mg DST measured before CPAP therapy correlated significantly with fasting serum cortisol level (r=0.764, p<0.0001), but not with various clinical parameters, including AHI (p=0.784), body mass index (p=0.984), waist circumference (p=0.957), HbA1c (p=0.261), fasting plasma glucose (p=0.420) and HOMA-IR (p=0.500). Our study show that OSAS causes a pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome in obese patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, which phenomena can be reversed by CPAP therapy.
The Japan Endocrine Society