Obstructive sleep apnea is a dangerous disease that causes the sufferer to stop breathing in their sleep. It affects 100 million people worldwide, approximately 25% of the general population. It is common in both developed and developing worlds and prevalence is not much different across various regions of the world. It occurs when the throat muscles relax and block the airways. People who snore often suffer from this type of sleep apnea. Some people do not know they are suffering and fail to seek treatment. Once diagnosed, there are ways to treat this problem.
Obstructive sleep apnea causes the muscles in the throat to relax and makes breathing during sleeping difficult. When the brain becomes aware of the lack of oxygen, it causes the body to wake up the throat muscles, and the breathing can return to normal. This can reoccur during the night and cause serious sleep disruption. There are certain risk factors that make someone more prone to sleep apnea. They include:
The symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are not always easy to notice. Since many of them occur while the sufferer is asleep, it is often a spouse or partner who notices the symptoms. The classic symptoms include:
Other symptoms or associated diseases may include
Diagnosis is first based on symptoms. If a doctor determines that a patient may be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, he or she may order a sleep study and refer the patient to a sleep specialist. During a sleep study, the patient stays at the clinic or hospital all night and is hooked up to monitors. The monitors track heart rate, lung patterns, breathing patterns, and sleeping patterns. If sleep apnea is an obvious problem that the specialists can diagnose early in the sleep study, they may administer treatment and then monitor the patient’s reaction to determine the severity of the obstructive sleep apnea.
There are ways to treat sleep apnea, and in most cases, the causes of the disease determine the treatment. The most common ways obstructive sleep apnea is treated are:
Obstructive sleep apnea can be dangerous if left untreated, but treatments give sufferers a good prognosis. In most cases, the sufferer will need to continue treatment throughout their lives to manage the disease. Calculate your risk by
If you’ve been having trouble sleeping, be sure to also read our article on how melatonin can help!