Many people don’t know about the deceptively dangerous consequences of Sleep apnea. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea with up to 80% of moderate to severe cases being undiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea, can lead to a plethora of health problems if left untreated. Untreated sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and liver problems among other things.
Sleep apnea is broken down into two categories, central sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea. Risks, causes, and treatments can differ depending on which form of sleep apnea you have.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
- Age: Older individuals are at higher risk of developing central sleep apnea.
- Heart disorders: Individuals with congestive heart failure have an increased risk for central sleep apnea.
- Narcotic pain medications: Use of opioid medications lead to an increased risk of central sleep apnea.
- Stroke: People who have suffered a stroke have a higher risk of sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Excessive weight: Obese patients are four times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea due to more weight on the chest and fat deposits around the airway that may obstruct breathing.
- Neck circumference: Individuals with a thicker neck could have a narrow airway.
- Narrowed airway: Individuals who naturally have a narrow airway or have enlarged tonsils are at a higher risk.
- Gender: Men are two times more likely to have sleep apnea than women.
- Age and family history: Oder individuals and those who have a family history of sleep apnea are at an increased risk.
- Smoking: Smokers have a three times greater risk of sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Loud snoring
- Witnessed pauses in breathing
- Wake up gasping for air
- Restless sleeping
- Frequent bathroom visits
- Early morning headache
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Inability to focus
- Depression or irritability
- Sleepiness during routine activities
After a sleep test (nocturnal polysomnography) diagnoses sleep apnea, a treatment plan needs to be developed. Treatment includes therapy or surgery. Lifestyle modifications can help to alleviate sleep apnea as well. For instance, an individual could stop smoking or lose weight.
CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is the most common and effective method to treat sleep apnea. CPAP machines push air through a mask that covers the nose to force air in the upper airway to prevent breathing cessation and snoring. Other therapies include other airway devices and oral appliances.
Surgery is an option after therapies have failed. The goal of surgery is to enlarge the upper airway to allow air to flow freely through the passageways. Surgery can be performed to remove tissue blocking the airway, repositioning the jaw, or put in implants.
Who Should I See For Sleep Apnea?
If you suspect or have been diagnosed with sleep apnea it is highly recommended that you see a sleep specialist. Although sleep specialists could have different medical backgrounds, ENT specialists most often diagnose and treat sleep apnea.
Dr. Carreño is an ENT specialist located in Miami. Dr. Carreño and his team are ENT experts that address a variety of ENT issues including sleep apnea. Dr. Carreño and his ENT staff are happy to answer your questions and assist you. Contact his office by phone or email today!