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Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea

man snoring in bedIf you have sleep apnea, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis and receive effective treatment for this serious disorder. It can cause short- and long-term health issues that may affect your well-being in serious ways if left untreated.

What is sleep apnea?

This very common disorder causes breathing to pause repeatedly during sleep. These pauses can vary in length and, depending on the severity of your condition, may occur more than 30 times a minute.

It can be caused by a variety of issues, and its cause determines the type you have. The most common types and causes of sleep apnea are:

  • Obstructive- caused by a blockage of the airway, often when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses while you sleep. This is the most common type.
  • Central- caused by a failure of the brain to signal the muscles to breathe.
  • Mixed- a combination of obstructive and central.

If you have sleep apnea, it’s typically an ongoing condition. You may not be aware that you have it, since you probably don’t fully awaken when you stop breathing. However, you or your bed partner may notice that you’re snoring, and you may also be excessively sleepy during the day because you’re not getting the quality of sleep you need.

It’s estimated that around 22 million people in the U.S. have this disorder, and it can occur in anyone, although being male, over 40, and overweight can increase your risk.

What are some of the dangers of undiagnosed sleep apnea?

It can interfere with your ability to get a good night’s sleep, so it can cause you to feel very sleepy during the day. In addition to making you feel less than your best, it can also increase the likelihood that you’ll drive while drowsy, fall asleep at the wheel, or have a workplace accident.

In addition, untreated sleep apnea is a serious disorder that can affect your health and well-being by causing the following issues:

  • Loud snoring
  • Waking up abruptly and gasping or feeling short of breath
  • Waking up with a sore throat
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Feeling excessively sleepy during the day
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Having troubling paying attention
  • Issues for your bed partner, such as difficulty sleeping through your loud snoring
  • High blood pressure or heart issues: Breathing stoppages cause the level of oxygen in your blood to drop suddenly, which can increase your blood pressure and strain your heart. This can cause an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, or irregular heartbeat, and if you already have heart disease, it can cause an irregular heart rhythm that could be fatal.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Your body’s resistance to insulin - which helps control blood sugar - is increased. This can make you more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and can make it harder to control your blood sugar levels if you already have diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome: This disorder is characterized by high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, as well increased abdominal fat.
  • Liver problems: You may be more likely to have scarring in your liver and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

This condition can be definitively diagnosed only through a sleep study. This test can be performed in a sleep center or at home, and it utilizes special equipment to help record detailed information about what happens to your body as you sleep. This can include data from brain waves, heart rate and rhythm, respiration, and the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood.

The test isn’t invasive or painful, and it gives your doctor specific, measurable information that he or she can use to confirm or rule out a diagnosis.

If you’ve been diagnosed with or have some of the symptoms of this disorder, make an appointment with the specialists at eos sleep. We can conduct a sleep study if needed and recommend appropriate treatment for sleep apnea, such as CPAP masks, oral appliances and minimally-invasive options.

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