MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Ads for sleep clinics feature a laundry list of symptoms associated with chronic sleep disorders: fatigue, irritability, inability to concentrate, memory loss, slow reaction, angry outbursts, and looking tired. Some point out increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and early death.
What they don’t mention is that sleep disorders are strongly associated with sexual dysfunction. Nor do ads for erectile dysfunction (ED)—yet some studies have shown that up to 70% of men diagnosed with sleep apnea suffer from ED. That fact is central to why El Camino Hospital Los Gatos decided to launch its new Sleep Disorders Program, despite the presence of several other sleep clinics in the Silicon Valley. It’s also why patients have been pouring in.
“One of our busiest urologists urged us to open a sleep clinic,” says Bido Baines, Executive Director, Urology Services and Men's Health Program at El Camino Hospital. “He was referring up to 300 patients a year to outside sleep clinics for diagnosis and treatment—and 50% of his erectile dysfunction patients were being diagnosed with sleep apnea. But he was frustrated that outside clinics either took six months to see the patient or were lax in providing follow-up. He urged us to create a center that would facilitate a seamless continuum of problem solving for patients.”
Scientists aren’t sure why sleep apnea and sexual dysfunction are linked in both men and women. But a study published last year in The Journal of Sexual Medicine reported significantly higher levels of sexual dysfunction in women and men aged 28 to 64 with obstructive sleep apnea (compared to individuals without sleep apnea.)
Dr. Edward Karpman, a board certified, fellowship trained urologist in the El Camino Hospital Men’s Health Program, says, “Many of my patients come to me with a long list of health problems that none of their doctors has been able to link together; heart disease, obesity, depression, fatigue. So I ask, ‘How’s your sleep?’ and find out they haven’t had a really good night’s sleep in years. I think trying to figure out the sleep angle is just as important as everything else.”
Steve, a 58 year-old retired technology executive who is one of Dr. Karpman’s patients, couldn’t agree more.
“I was this close to giving up,” says the South Bay resident, who asked that his full name not be used. “I wasn’t sure how long I wanted to hang around. Life wasn’t worth it.”
Overweight, suffering from cardiovascular issues, erectile dysfunction, and a sleep disorder that had afflicted him since his early 40s, he was on antidepressants and rarely felt like getting up in the morning. His weight had ballooned and he woke up exhausted. He also suffered from osteoporosis that had erased 20% of his normal bone mass. His life changed the day he walked into the Men’s Health Program at El Camino Hospital.
“It wasn’t an issue of not being able to afford good medical care,” Steve says. “I had the best private insurance available. The problem is that no one was looking at the big picture. I had a cardiologist over here; a primary care doctor over there; a sleep specialist 10 or 12 miles away and so on. None of them were talking to each other.”
“No one had even checked my testosterone level before,” Steve says. “It turns out that it was incredibly low, which probably is at the heart of many of my health problems. But Dr. Karpman didn’t stop there. He’s like a bulldog—he wasn’t going to let go until he found a way to improve my life.”
Adjusting Steve’s testosterone was only one part of the puzzle. Dr. Karpman worried that Steve’s treatment for sleep apnea was ineffective. A sleep evaluation confirmed his suspicions. A prescription for a new device has had “miraculous” results.
“Before that, I spent $5,000 on a stupid mask that I wore all those years for absolutely no benefit,” Steve says. “When they took another look they found that I needed a different type of device—which solved the problem. If you don’t get your sleep right, nothing works right. This has changed my life.”
The “all in one place” approach to treatment makes a huge difference, according to Steve, who now sees a cardiologist right next door to Dr. Karpman, and a sleep specialist at the hospital. “They’re all working together—I can’t tell you what a difference it makes,” he says. His weight has dropped from 310 to 248. His relationship with his wife “is like we’re newlyweds again. You can’t pay enough money for that. It’s like starting all over again.”
Although the hospital’s sleep disorder program got its push from the Men’s Health Program, it welcomes women, too. One of the first patients was Joann Medina, an operating room nurse. Even though she thought she slept well, she felt tired during the day. “I went through many years of denying I had any sleep issues, but when I heard the hospital was opening a sleep center, I felt it was time to find out for sure,” says Medina.
Medina, who often vacationed and shared a hotel room with friends, was told she snored and moved around as if not having a restful sleep. It made her hesitant to travel with others.
“I feel good that I’m finally doing something about it,” says Medina, “especially since I realize that my sleep apnea could have negative effects on other aspects of my health.”
Although she hasn’t been fully evaluated yet, she did learn she has sleep apnea, a not-surprising diagnosis given her friends’ feedback. The next step will be recommendations about the appropriate treatment. “As soon as I find out what my options are I can make an informed decision,” she says.
Sleep disruptions are a symptom, not a disease, and can be caused by a variety of issues. Sleep apnea is the most common diagnosis, affecting one in 15 people, or 18 million Americans. It may coexist with or be a precursor to other conditions, including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, depression, high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, dementia, stroke, obesity and endocrine issues.
The only way to accurately diagnose a sleep disorder is a sleep study. The process takes approximately 12 hours from start to finish, and includes patient evaluation, analysis of sleep study results, diagnosis of any sleep disorders and recommendations for follow up treatment, including surgery if necessary.
The El Camino Hospital Sleep Disorders Program will recommend treatment for a diagnosed sleep disorder, often giving patients a range of possible solutions such as a device that can be used at home to regulate breathing during sleep, or surgery. Unlike most other sleep programs, however, it will also refer patients to cardiologists, endocrinologists or other specialists to follow up on underlying causes.
“It’s really a testament to El Camino Hospital that they listened to our concerns and opened this program,” says Dr. Karpman. “It’s allowed us to provide our patients—both men and women—with comprehensive, ‘big picture’ care.”
To learn more visit www.elcaminohospital.org/sleep or call 408-866-4070.
El Camino Hospital
Chris Ernst, 650-962-5853
KEYWORDS: United States North America California
INDUSTRY KEYWORDS: Seniors Women Health Cardiology Hospitals Mental Health Consumer Family General Health Men