Sleep ApneaAn Overview
Sleep apnea is a chronic medical concern that can create oral and systemic health problems. The most common type is Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA for short. OSA occurs when the airway becomes blocked during sleep. For many patients, the airway is blocked by soft oral tissues. When the airway becomes blocked the patient loses oxygen and is unable to breathe. Patients suffering from sleep apnea often wake up multiple times during the night gasping for air. These episodes of the airway closing and reopening can happen many times during sleep sometimes up to 30 times per hour. When the body’s oxygen flow is interrupted vital organs, including the brain and heart can be damaged.
Risk Factors for Developing Sleep Apnea
There are many factors that have been shown to increase your risk of developing sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is often worse in people who drink, smoke and use sedatives. Patients who are overweight, pregnant, and use drugs are also more likely to snore and suffer from sleep apnea. The prevalence of sleep apnea increases with age and it is estimated that as many as 50% of elderly men and women suffer from the disorder. If you have a family history of OSA, have a narrow airway or small lower jaw, you also have a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.
Signs & Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
It may be difficult to tell if you have sleep apnea. A condition that occurs while asleep, many patients go undiagnosed for too long. Diagnosing a sleep disorder will typically involve your physician and/or other specialist as well as Dr. Weinstock. Your physician is the only medical professional that is qualified to diagnose you with sleep apnea. You will most likely need to undergo sleep testing to get an accurate diagnosis. X-rays and exams will also look for signs of a blockage in your airway. Most importantly, your medical team will review your medical history and discuss your symptoms. Common signs we look for include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Easily distracted, trouble concentrating
- Wake up gasping for air
- Loud snoring (often pointed out by a sleeping partner)
- Frequent headaches
- Snorting or choking while sleeping
- Feeling depressed
- Unusual irritability
- Waking up to a dry mouth