Are you feeling excessive sleepiness or having trouble concentrating during the day? Do you snore, feel restless, or wake up gasping for air at night? If so, you may be experiencing symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by intermittent collapse of the airway in the back of the throat. Night after night, your body is robbed of quality sleep and adequate levels of blood oxygen, leading to potentially fatal outcomes over a period of months to years. Daytime function and cognitive ability can be severely impaired, causing motor vehicle crashes, errors on the job, and depression. It can also lead to heart trouble including hypertension, coronary artery disease, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and stroke.
Who is affected? Older men are two to three times more likely than women to have OSA. The strongest risk factor for both sexes is obesity. One study looked at 700 adults and found those who gained 10% body weight showed sixfold increase in risk of OSA. Additionally, those with abnormalities in the structure of their facial bones or large tonsils and/or adenoids are more likely to have OSA.
If you have risk factors or symptoms of OSA, discuss it with your doctor. OSA is diagnosed by doing an overnight sleep study in a laboratory that measures multiple data points while you sleep. If you fit the criteria for OSA, treatment is necessary.
If diagnosed with OSA, how is it treated? The two main treatments are weight loss and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. A CPAP device creates a stream of compressed air that keeps the airway open, allowing for uninterrupted sleep and optimal blood oxygen levels. There are different types of masks used for CPAP, including a nose mask, full -face mask, or hybrid. The sleep lab will work with you on the best, most comfortable fit.
Other treatments exist including oral devices that bring the jaw forward and keep the soft tissues of the oropharynx from blocking the airway. In addition, some may also be good candidates for surgical procedures.
Successful treatment can reduce the risk of serious health complications related to OSA while increasing your quality of daily life and could potentially save your life.