Sleep Apnea: Symptoms and Treatments
Written By: Emma Squillace
Although high blood pressure is known as the “silent killer,” there is another health condition that goes undiagnosed in up to 80% of the people who have it, and can be more dangerous than many realize. It can increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack, developing diabetes, and having a serious car accident. That condition is obstructive sleep apnea. Here are some of the details you should know about obstructive sleep apnea, along with the treatment options.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is difficult to diagnose because the symptoms can be symptoms of other health conditions as well. For example, people with sleep apnea are often tired during the day, have low energy and a decreased interest in sex. For these reasons, they may be diagnosed with depression. Other symptoms including loud snores or gasping sounds during sleep, shortness of breath when you wake in the night, and having a sore throat in the morning. Although none of these symptoms are enough to diagnose sleep apnea, recurrence of any of them warrants a consultation with a medical expert.
Risk factors of sleep apnea
While men certainly have the reputation for snoring more often, sleep apnea affects both men and women. At younger ages, men do tend to have sleep apnea more, but after menopause, women’s rate of sleep apnea equals that of men. One of the most prominent risk factors for sleep apnea is obesity. Extra weight can mean extra fat deposits in the upper portion of your airway. Even though people who are obese are 4 times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea, we see plenty of normal weight adults with sleep apnea as well.
Dangers of sleep apnea
When you have sleep apnea, you do not get sufficient sleep. Over time, this is especially dangerous because your body relies on sleep to function properly. That’s why sleep apnea is a risk factor for diabetes, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, and liver disease. Sleep apnea also makes anesthesia more dangerous, and it makes car accidents more likely.
Treatment options for sleep apnea
If you have sleep apnea, there is a wide range of treatment options for you. Starting at one end of the spectrum is the most simple of lifestyle changes. For example, some people are able to escape the burden of sleep apnea by sleeping on their side. Some are able to stop their sleep apnea by cutting down on alcohol, stopping smoking, or being treated for any allergies that may be contributing to their breathing problems.
However, most people with moderate to severe sleep apnea only see improvement with medical treatment. A popular treatment for sleep apnea is called Positive Airway Pressure (PAP). You’ve likely seen the breathing masks people sleep with. Those are PAP machines, and they provide air with higher pressure than normal, which is enough to keep your airways open as you sleep.
There are other treatments available for those who wants something more permanent, or do not like the logistics of wearing the mask over their face every night. There are 3 surgical treatments that can be performed for sleep apnea:
• Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty which involves removal of some tissue around your throat
• Jaw correction which fixes alignment in the upper and lower jaw
• Pillar which is the placement of 3 rods in the soft palate, to stop the airway from collapsing as you sleep
Additionally, for people who are obese, bariatric surgery may be a good treatment option. Many people who have bariatric surgery not only lose weight, but also find their sleep apnea is significantly improved.
If you think you may have sleep apnea and are interested in speaking with us about getting diagnosed, or your treatment options, please get in touch with us. Our experts are happy to answer your questions. We can be reached at (855) 690-0565.