Sleep apnea, part 2

Conditions, complications, diagnosis and treatment options

While obstructive sleep apnea can affect all ages, central sleep apnea affects only older folks.

My daughter, 43 years old, and my daughter-in-law, 52 years old, were recently diagnosed with the sleeping problem. My son, 46 years old, is about to be tested for the illness. So why is it so important to be checked for the disorder? Well, Mayo Clinic provides us with this list of complications that can arise from untreated sleep apnea:

1. Daytime Fatigue – Because normal, restorative sleep is impossible, the victim of this sleep problem experiences difficulty concentrating, and has a lack of energy to become productive at work and in relationships

2. High Blood Pressure/Heart Problems (Coronary Difficulties) – With high blood pressure becoming much more prevalent here, sleep apnea also may increase the risk for repeated heart attacks and abnormal heart beats (including atrial fibrillation), which (with multiple episodes of low oxygen) can lead to sudden death – heart failure, stroke, and blood clots are also found under this category

3. Type 2 Diabetes – The person can become more insulin resistant here leading to this type of diabetes 4. Metabolic Syndrome – This is a collection of risk factors linked to a higher risk of heart disease, again including high blood pressure and high blood sugar, and also including abnormal cholesterol and increased waist circumference

5. Complications with meds and surgery – It is important to discuss sleep apnea with your anesthesiologist physician if having general anesthesia

6. Liver Problems – Patients are more likely to have abnormal results on a liver function test with scarring known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

7. Sleep-Deprived Partners – This is the result of loud, excessive snoring (often accompanying sleep apnea), which will affect the partner in the same room with the patient.

When should a person get a doctor’s evaluation?

If you or your bed partner has experienced:

1. Pauses in breathing during sleep

2. Snoring that’s loud enough to disturb another person’s sleep

3. Excessive daytime drowsiness which may cause you to fall asleep while at work, while watching television, or while driving a vehicle or operating heavy equipment machinery – see a sleep study specialist.

The overnight stay in a medical sleep “lab,” supervised by trained physicians and clinicians who are monitoring the patient’s blood pressure, respiration, oxygen levels, and heart beats, will reveal the extent of apnea problems in the individual being studied.

There are newer treatments that don’t require a mask during sleep:

1. EPAP (expiratory positive airway pressure) or a single-use device that is placed over each nostril before sleeping. This device is a valve that allows air to move freely in, but when the person exhales, air must go through small holes in the valve. This maneuver increases pressure in the airway and keeps it open.

2. Negative pressure therapy or The Winx Sleep Therapy system provides negative therapy by holding the tongue forward during sleep with a semicustom fit mouthpiece with a small tube attached. Suction holds the tongue forward while preventing it from blocking the airway.

3. An implantable device, Inspire or hypoglossal nerve stimulation device, acts like a pacemaker and is implanted just under the skin. It controls the nerves that control tongue movement and avoids obstruction when a person breathes. Try to avoid sleeping on your back for easier breathing!

Happy Dreams!

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