What does it mean that President Joe Biden has sleep apnea?: Reporters noticed this week that President Biden appeared to have marks on his face, consistent with using a CPAP machine mask. The White House has acknowledged that he had the condition for many years.
What should Americans know about the president’s condition?
Joe Biden and Sleep Apnea
Earlier this week, reporters who cover the White House noticed that President Biden had some marks on his face.
This led to speculation that the president had begun using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, a device often used for the treatment of sleep apnea.
Soon after, the White House acknowledged that Biden does have the condition and that he has been using such a machine of late.
“Since 2008, the president has disclosed his history with sleep apnea in thorough medical reports. He used a CPAP machine last night, which is common for people with that history,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates told the press this week.
Biden disclosed the condition in 2008, the year he first ran for vice president, but indications are that Biden did not obtain any treatment for the condition until relatively recently. Per CNN, a health record released by the president in 2019, when he first began his campaign, showed that sleep apnea “has been considered, but his symptoms have improved significantly after his sinus and nasal passage surgeries.” The condition was not mentioned, however in a readout of the president’s most recent physical.
What the Experts Told Us
19FortyFive spoke this week with Dr. Joseph Krainin, who is an adviser to SleepApnea.org. Board-certified in both neurology and sleep medicine, he has consulted with professional athletes among other work in a varied career.
“I had just read about this recently, that in 2008 it was disclosed that he had been diagnosed with sleep apnea, and it looked like he had never been treated for it, this time,” Dr. Krainin told 19FortyFive. He called the report about Biden having surgery “sketchy,” since he believes it is “a great fallacy that I love to dispel,” that such surgery can have any effect on sleep apnea.
Dr. Krainin said he believes Joe Biden is the first president of the United States ever to acknowledge a diagnosis of sleep apnea.
He added that because the president had marks from the CPAP mask, it was likely that he was wearing it too tightly.
“You should not have marks like that,” he said. “It’s typically a sign that you’ve overtightened it, which is nearly common in people who haven’t been educated about how… it should fit and work. Really, the mask should be snug but not overly tight.” It’s also common, he said, for people with CPAP machines to have the wrong size or style for their face.
The president, of course, is 80 years old, and Dr. Krainin stated that age is absolutely a factor in sleep apnea.
“We typically see kind of inflection in the curve… in the 40s, in men,” he said. “If you look, the rights continue to grow up steadily, into old age.” He added that Biden has suffered two brain aneurysms, both in the 1980s, which can increase the risk of sleep apnea.
While it’s not great that Joe Biden appears not to have been treated for the condition until recently, Dr. Krainin says it “may have opened up a dialogue and teachable moment.”
“Obviously, there was some straw that broke the camel’s back here, where he decided it was time to get going with treatment after 15 years.”
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) released a study in 2022 that laid out some numbers. The group stated that 30 million Americans have sleep apnea, while only about 6 million Americans have been formally diagnosed with the condition. That study also assessed the damage from “workplace accidents, automobile accidents, comorbid diseases and loss in productivity” which should be measured as high as $149.6 billion.
Dr. Krainin said he agrees with those numbers, although they might be undercounting the incidence of the condition.
“Presidents are often very hush-hush about their medical issues,” Dr. Krainin said, “their presidential medical exam says they’re uber-fit to serve. But we know they have medical problems….I think that trying to sweep these things under the rug is not good.”
Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.