Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Symptoms, Risks, & Diagnosis
So how do you know whether or not you have obstructive sleep apnea? Without a proper medical diagnosis, there’s no way to be sure, but if you’ve experienced a number of the following common symptoms, pursuing a professional opinion may be a good choice.
Common Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
- Hypersomnia, excessive daytime fatigue
- Loud snoring
- Waking up with a sore throat or dry mouth
- Morning headaches
- Restless, fitful sleep
- Recurring insomnia, or difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up during the night short of breath
- Problems maintaining concentration during the day
- Unexplained mood changes
- Decreased sex drive
Many people with obstructive sleep apnea don’t become aware of their condition themselves, but are told they might have a problem by their partner. If your sleeping partner has complained about your loud snoring, or that you seem to struggle to breath during the night, that’s a big indication that you should explore obstructive sleep apnea further.
Medical Conditions Linked To Obstructive Sleep Apnea
So why should you care? Snoring’s not a big deal, right? In fact, obstructive sleep apnea has been linked to numerous serious medical conditions. Leaving OSA untreated increases the prevalence of the following disorders, many of which may be life-threatening:
High blood pressure
Numerous studies have found a link between hypertension, or high blood pressure, and obstructive sleep apnea. The physical mechanism involved here is well understood. When a sufferer of sleep apnea undergoes an apnea or hypopnea, and their blood oxygen level decreases, the brain alerts blood vessels to constrict, routing blood directly to the heart and brain, where it’s needed most. This elevation in blood pressure is precisely what is referred to by the medical condition hypertension.
Unfortunately, even though episodes of obstructive sleep apnea only occur at night, their effects, including increased blood pressure, often carry over into waking hours. Hypertension can lead to stroke, heart disease, heart failure and many other tragic outcomes.
Commonly referred to as “heart disease,” the term “cardiovascular disease” refers to a wide range of medical conditions involving the heart and blood vessels. Many forms of cardiovascular disease have been linked to obstructive sleep apnea in recent scientific research.
Studies indicate that people suffering from forms of cardiovascular disease, like high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke have a higher prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea than those without these conditions. Although the link between heart diseases and obstructive sleep apnea is still relatively unclear, we can say with assurance that if you have obstructive sleep apnea, it’s more likely that you will develop hypertension (high blood pressure).
In addition, it’s been convincingly documented that treating people for obstructive sleep apnea reduces blood pressure and the risk of heart failure. People with obstructive sleep apnea and an underlying heart condition are highly at risk; the numerous episodes of low blood oxygen caused by obstructive sleep apnea starve the heart and brain of necessary chemicals and may cause sudden death.
Complications after surgery
People with obstructive sleep apnea are more prone to have trouble breathing. This risk increases under sedation, and while lying on one’s back, as after many surgeries. Under these circumstances, general anesthesia may present more dangers than it’s worth.
Studies have shown that those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to receive abnormal results on standard tests of liver function. Cirrhosis of the liver occurs when a liver’s healthy tissue is slowly replaced by scar tissue, which prevents it from functioning appropriately. Obstructive sleep apnea patients are more likely to show signs of liver scarring than others.
Depression & Other Psychological Conditions
Lack of adequate sleep, as experienced by people with obstructive sleep apnea, has been linked to numerous psychological disorders, including depression, anxiety, and an increased severity of underlying post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, sufferers from obstructive sleep apnea are at risk of memory loss. Several studies indicate that people with obstructive sleep apnea show a deterioration of brain tissue in regions that make memory storage possible.
Fighting for air, as those with obstructive sleep apnea do multiple times per night, puts your body into its “fight or flight” mode. The release of stress hormones, like epinephrine, can also raise blood glucose levels. For those with Type 2 Diabetes, these nightly fluctuations in blood sugar can make controlling blood sugar extremely difficult.
For those without diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea may lead to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Diabetes occurs because the body either stops producing insulin, a hormone that aids your body in absorbing glucose, or its cells stop using insulin efficiently. The body of a sufferer of obstructive sleep apnea reacts to loss of sleep in a very similar way to those with insulin resistance.
Is Snoring Dangerous?
The most common symptom cited in cases of obstructive sleep apnea is loud, chronic snoring. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 37 million American adults snore on a regular basis. But snoring is not a harmless annoyance to your sleeping partner, nor is it something that should be mocked.
Snoring occurs when air is forced through an obstructed airway, vibrating the soft palate and uvula of your mouth. Obviously, because obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, many sufferers of sleep apnea snore. But not all do, and not all people who snore have sleep apnea. Either way, snoring is not the way you should be breathing at night and can have adverse effects on people with or without obstructive sleep apnea.
In addition to your chronic snoring, take account of how you feel during the day. Snoring that is not caused by obstructive sleep apnea generally does not affect people as severely as those with OSA. Are you suffering from extreme fatigue? Do you feel sleepy all the time? If so, you may have obstructive sleep apnea. Keep reading to find out how you can be properly diagnosed for obstructive sleep apnea.
How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
The diagnosis of serious medical conditions should always be made by professional medical practitioners. Wondering whether the sleep apnea solutions offered at the Art of Dentistry by Dr. Stephen J. Gershberg are right for you or your loved one? There are two primary methods of diagnosis that we employ to determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea and how we can help.
Depending on your comfort level, we are happy to refer you to a sleep center near Bryn Mawr, PA. Alternatively, we can provide you with a machine that you can use at home, in the comfort of your own bed. Both methods of diagnosis are called Polysomnogram or PSG. Sensors are attached to your forehead, face, chest, arms, and a finger, and then you go to sleep as usual. The PSG records numerous factors that can indicate obstructive sleep apnea, including:
- brain activity
- eye movement
- heart rate
- blood pressure
- air movement through your nose
- chest movement during respiration
After your results are ready, we’ll work closely with your primary physician to create an individualized, comprehensive obstructive sleep apnea treatment plan for you.
Contact A Bryn Mawr Sleep Apnea Specialist
While the symptoms of sleep apnea may seem relatively minor, and are commonly made light of in the media, obstructive sleep apnea can develop into serious medical conditions and exacerbate those already present. If you believe that you or your loved one may be suffering from sleep apnea, contact Dr. Stephen J. Gershberg, DMD at the Art of Dentistry today.
To learn about the obstructive sleep apnea treatment options offered at the Art of Dentistry, visit our “Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatment In Bryn Mawr, PA” page.