Diagnosing and Treating Sleep Apnea

Diagnosing and Treating Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea: Causes, Risks and Treatment

Sleep apnea is a debilitating condition that affects millions of sufferers from around the globe. Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders in the United States.The exact causes of sleep apnea are unknown, but medical experts believe that obesity or blocked airways are a major determining factor in the majority of the cases. Understanding sleep apnea, its effects on the body and how to treat it is vital in living with and overcoming this disorder.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which the sufferer has short pauses in his breathing during sleep. These pauses can be brief—lasting a fraction of a second, or as long as several minutes.Sleep apnea occurs when the airways that lead to the lungs are blocked, preventing air from flowing through freely. During these pauses in breating, the person’s body reacts by bringing the person out of a deep, restful sleep to a shallow, light sleep. This lack of restful sleep can aggravate other, more serious issues such as obesity and diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Many cases of sleep apnea go undiagnosed. The most common sign of sleep apnea is snoring. Snoring occurs when the body is attempting to force air through the blocked passage. In some cases, the sufferer will go silent for a few moments, then gasp or choke and start breathing normally again. Sleep apnea is most often undiagnosed in single people who do not share a sleeping space with another person.

Sleep apnea can only be diagnosed through a sleep study. During this study, the technicians will hook the patient up to electrodes that measure his breathing. This will determine the presence and severity of the apnea.

Risks of Sleep Apnea

Because sleep apnea disrupts sleep, it can send the body into a tailspin. Sleep apnea has sufferers are more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes. It can also increase the risk of heart failure. People with sleep apnea have been known to fall asleep while driving or operating heavy machinery, causing harm to themselves and others.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Most doctors recommend weight loss for obese patients who suffer from sleep apnea. Other patients can benefit from the use of a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine which forces air into the lungs through a mask. These treatments can reduce the incidences of sleep apnea and bring long term relief to sufferers.

Sleep apnea is a debilitating disease that affects millions. Because of advances in medicine, however, more is being done to help sufferers get a good night’s rest.

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