There are three different types of sleep apnea: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) which is the most common, Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), and Mixed Sleep Apnea. Individual’s that are diagnosed with OSA repeatedly stop and start breathing during sleep. This repeated stopping and starting of an individual’s breathing occurs when the throat muscles intermittently relax during sleep and block an individual’s airway.
The most common symptom of OSA is loud snoring; however, not everyone that snores loudly has OSA. There are other conditions that cause snoring as well. Loud snoring with that is punctuated by periods of silence is the type of snoring associated with sleeping issue. Other symptoms of OSA include: excessive daytime sleepiness; shortness of breath after an abrupt awakening; waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat; waking up with a headache; frequent nightly urination; or difficulty staying asleep. Individuals with OSA may also complain of memory problems, mood swings, or depression.
Individuals should seek medical attention for the loud snoring punctuated by periods of silence; if they experience shortness of breath that wakes them from their sleep; pauses in breathing during sleep (this is noticed by a sleep partner rather than the individual with sleeping issue); and excessive daytime drowsiness.
There are certain factors that can put individuals at risk for developing obstructive sleeping issue. These factors include:
– Excess weight, areas of fat around the upper airway can cause a breathing obstruction.
– Neck circumference. Neck size may indicate increased risk of OSA. A neck circumference of more than 17 inches for men and more than 15 inches for women are a considered to be at increased risk for OSA.
– High blood pressure. OSA is fairly common in individuals that suffer from this disorder.
– Narrowed airway. A naturally narrow throat or enlarged tonsils or adenoids may block an individual’s airway.
– Chronic nasal congestion. OSA occurs in individuals that have consistent nasal congestion – no matter the cause of the congestion.
– Diabetes – OSA common occurs in individuals who have this disease.
– Male – men are more likely to have OSA.
– Race – African Americans, Hispanic, and individuals from the Pacific Islands are more likely to have OSA.
– Age – OSA commonly occurs in elderly adults.
– Menopause – the risk of a woman to develop OSA increases after menopause.
– Family history – individuals with a family history of sleep apnea are more likely to also to develop sleep apnea.
– Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers – individuals using any of these substances cause the throat muscles to relax and the development of sleep apnea.
– Smoking – individuals who smoke are likely to develop OSA.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a series medical condition. Left undiagnosed and/or untreated can lead to the following medical conditions: cardiovascular problems; daytime fatigue; complications with medications and surgery; and sleep deprived partners.
Sleep apnea is diagnosed by a sleep study test called polysomnography (PSG) which is conducted by sleep specialist at a sleep clinic. The PSG test records the biophysiological changes while the patient sleeps. Oximetry screening can also be conducted. This is a screening method that monitors and records an individual’s blood oxygen level during sleep. Portable cardiorespiratory testing is also an option. This is a test that is conducted at home to diagnosis sleep apnea.
There are several treatment options for individuals with obstructive sleep apnea. These treatment options include:
The use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. This involves the individual with CSA wearing a mask over the nose while sleeping. The mask is attached by a hose to a pump that supplies constant pressured air. This pressured air keeps the upper airway open and prevents airway closure.
Mouthpiece. Individuals with OSA can be fitted with an oral device that is specifically designed to keep the throat open.
Surgery to remove excess tissue from the nose or that causes snoring and/or is blocking the upper air passages causing sleep apnea.
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