Sleep apnea is a common and potentially serious sleep disorder that causes your breathing to become shallow or stop completely (apnea) during sleep.
ABOUT 30 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE UNITED STATES ARE ESTIMATED TO HAVE SLEEP APNEA.
Most common symptoms are: snoring, episodes of breathing pauses reported by another person, gasping for air during sleep, waking up with a dry mouth, morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
COMPLICATIONS RELATED TO SLEEP APNEA INCLUDE:
- Daytime fatigue and drowsiness leading to people falling asleep while driving or at work causing higher rates of accidents.
- It causes an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, irregular heartbeats such as atrial fibrillation and even sudden death.
- It increases your risk for diabetes mellitus type 2, cause abnormal liver function tests including scarring of liver from nonalchoholic fatty liver disease.
DIAGNOSIS IS BASED ON AN EVALUATION OF SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS.
Proper sleep history from you and your partner and referral for a sleep study (nocturnal polysomnography) which involves overnight monitoring at a sleep center of your breathing and other body functions during sleep. Home sleep testing also might be an option.
Milder cases of sleep apnea require lifestyle changes such as weight loss or quitting smoking. If you have nasal allergies those need to be treated.
Moderate and severe cases require devices such as Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring. If using a CPAP machine is a problem then other options are bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) or wearing oral appliances designed to keep your upper airway open. Surgery is usually only an option after other treatments have failed.
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