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Sleep apnea, sometimes referred to as obstructive sleep apnea, is a relatively common sleep disorder. The condition can be a problem for both the patient experiencing sleep apnea, as well as for their partner.
Several studies suggest different estimates on the prevalence, but one study reports that it is generally predicted that up to 7% of the adult population is experiencing symptoms associated with sleep apnea.
The condition seems to be more prevalent amongst men than women.
Many risk factors have been associated and people are being advised to become aware of the symptoms to ensure they can identify the condition early on, which reduces the risk of complications. This has especially become an important factor after several studies confirmed that sleep apnea, even though rare, may lead to fatal complications.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a well-recognized sleep disorder. The condition relates to an obstruction that occurs in the upper airway of a person while they are asleep. This results in the desaturation of oxyhemoglobin while the affected patient is sleeping, and can also cause them to wake up frequently. The Ochsner Journal explains that sleep apnea is considered to be a problem that is currently on the rise, affecting more-and-more people. In part, this may be due to more awareness being made for sleep apnea, causing more people to recognize the symptoms and obtain an official diagnosis. Still, many fail to identify the symptoms or fail to act upon the symptoms, which could be placing their lives in danger.
It is vital for individuals to learn more about the signs of sleep apnea should they suspect they may be affected, or their partner may be affected.
Symptoms Unnoticed by the Patient
There are numerous symptoms that may signal the presence of this sleep disorder. The majority of people affected by sleep apnea tends to snore chronically and loudly, but there may be short pauses in their snoring. Should a pause occur, the affected person may make a gasping or a choking sound before they start to snore again.
This makes it difficult for a person to identify the possible presence of sleep apnea in themselves. For this reason, it is advised that people become aware of the symptoms associated with sleep apnea and recognize these signs in their partners or family members while they are sleeping.
Symptoms that can be Identified by the Patient
Many people who suffer from sleep apnea also find that they are very sleepy during the day. In many cases, a person may feel like falling asleep – sometimes actually falling asleep – during the day.
Possible Causes of Sleep Apnea
It can be difficult to identify the causes of sleep apnea in a particular individual. The causes tend to defer from one patient to another.
Men are known to be at a higher risk of sleep apnea, as well as the elderly. Other risk factors that have been associated with sleep apnea include:
- Being overweight or obese.
- Going through menopause.
- Sleeping on your back.
- Suffering from chronic sinusitis.
- Having exceptionally large tonsils.
- Being a smoker.
- Having a large overbite.
- Having a recessed chin.
- Having a large circumference in the neck area.
In addition to these risk factors, it should be noted that certain medical conditions can also cause sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea, for example, is a type of sleep apnea that occurs due to the neurological controls that control breathing. This type of sleep apnea can be caused by certain types of painkillers, as well as after suffering a heart attack or a stroke.
Health Complications of Sleep Apnea
We now come to a part where we want our readers to pay close attention. Sleep apnea is often not taken seriously by many people suffering from the condition, but recent studies have provided evidence that the world needs to become more aware of this disruptive condition.
The most obvious complication that sleep apnea may cause is trouble sleeping. Insomnia is a possible complication that may occur, which can lead to sleep deficiency. In turn, the patient may start to experience daytime sleepiness, health complications, and also a higher risk of being involved in a car accident.
Serious Medical Risks
In addition to these complications, it should be noted that sleep apnea can hold more serious consequences as well. The Sleep Heart Health Study reported that hypertension prevalence increased amongst individuals who experience sleep apnea and other sleep disorders, a condition that can lead to artery damage and other possible complications. Other common complications that may arise due to sleep apnea include:
- Death due to heart disease
- Increased risk of having a stroke
- Insulin resistance and glucose tolerance, leading to diabetes
- Gastric Reflux
- Inability to lose weight and obesity
- High cancer prevalence
- Heart attack due to hypertension
All of these possible complications can be fatal, leading to the conclusion that treatment should be initiated early on to prevent such complications.
Several treatment options can be used to provide a relief of sleep apnea.
1. CPAP Device
The most common option utilized in modern times is the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP Machine). These masks are placed on the mouth and nose to assists with keeping the airway open while the patient is sleeping. This will help to avoid obstructive sleep apnea from occurring.
2. Dental Appliances
There are also certain dental appliances that can be used to reduce the risk of sleep apnea. The most common dental appliance used is a Mandibular Advancement Device, which helps to create more space in the mouth to keep the airways open while the patient sleeps.
3. Surgical Treatment
In some rare cases, surgery may be a recommended option for a patient experiencing sleep apnea. This option is usually only presented to patients experiencing a more severe type of sleep apnea. During these surgical procedures, excess tissue in the back of the mouth is removed to avoid an obstruction during sleep.
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While sleep apnea has been a recognized sleep disorder for a significant amount of time, it has not always been considered a dangerous condition. New studies now suggest that people need to be more aware of what happens to them during sleep and to recognize the symptoms of sleep apnea early on.
This can help to provide them with the right treatment and possibly even save their life. These studies have identified dangers associated with sleep apnea and revealed that the risk of fatality seems to be more significant amongst certain individuals.