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What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea ?

Feb 29, 2008
Your snoring can be more than an annoyance to your partner. It can also be a sign of a serious sleep disorder that can have long terms effects on your health. Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when the upper airway becomes obstructed by a narrowing of the respiratory passages.

It can disrupt your breathing and unknowingly wake you up countless times during the night. Consequently, you won't get the deep sleep that you need to function well when awake. In this article, we'll detail the symptoms of this disorder and your apnea treatment options.

The most common complaints associated with obstructive sleep apnea are loud snoring, disrupted sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness. Patients with apnea suffer from fragmented sleep and may develop cardiovascular abnormalities because of the repetitive cycles of snoring, airway collapse and waking up.

Although most patients are overweight and have a short, thick neck, some are of normal weight but have a small, receding jaw. Because many patients are not aware of their heavy snoring and nocturnal arousals, this nocturnal sleep problem may remain undiagnosed.

Sleep apnea can come with other health conditions. Cardiovascular disease is common in patients. Hypertension and obesity increase the risk of cardiac disease and are frequent findings in patients with this type of disorder. Patients with apnea who are smokers may also have coronary artery disease and obstructive airway disease.

Psychosocial problems are common in patients who have apnea. These patients often have depression, mood changes, poor memory, irritability and impaired concentration. Nocturnal panic attacks have also been associated with this type of disorder.

Sleep medicine isn't enough to treat apnea. Specialists usually recommend weight loss, and dental devices that modify the position of the tongue or jaw. Some doctors may prescribe the use of a CPAP mask. With this method, straps hold the mask firmly over the nose and the CPAP machine that generates the positive airway pressure sits on a table next to the bed.

CPAP treatment is used in most patients who have apnea. Jaw surgery is the most invasive surgical procedure used to treat this malady. The surgical procedure may be limited to pulling the tongue forward. An extensive procedure may entail moving both the mandible and maxilla. Extensive jaw surgery has a higher complication rate and a longer recovery time.

Sleepiness during the day is perhaps the least worrisome of all the side effects. It is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.

The risks of undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea include heart attacks, strokes, impotence, anxiety disorders, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and heart disease. The severity of the symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe but it's best to consult a clinic as soon as possible for the appropriate apnea treatment.
About the Author
Discover more information about obstructive sleep apnea from Mike Selvon educational portal. We appreciate your feedback at our sleep disorder treatment blog.
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