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What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
One of the most common and debilitating forms of sleep apnea is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea, OSA. This potentially devastating sleep disorder, can lead to a number of complications as it causes an individual to repeatedly start and stop breathing during their sleep. this can have devastating effects both in the long and short term.
OSA occurs when the muscles in the throat intermittently relax and tighten involuntarily, causing the airways to become blocked during a patient sleep. The most common symptom and sign of sleep apnea is loud snoring.
Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
With Obstructive Sleep Apnea being the most common form of sleep apnea, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. The most common signs of Obstructive Sleep Apnea are:
- Sleeping Often During the Day
- Loud Snoring
- Morning Migraine Headaches
- Waking Up with Dry Mouth or a Sore Throat
- Waking Up Gasping or Choking
- Observable Cessation of Breathing During Sleep (By one’s partner or parent)
- Inability to Concentrate During the Day
- High Blood Pressure
- Decreased Libido or Sex Drive
- Frequent and Sudden Changes in Mood
Should I see a Doctor?
With Obstructive Sleep Apnea the early stages of the disorder aren’t overly harmful, however over time the cessation of breathing during sleep can lead to adverse effects to the brain, and overall health. If the condition is observable to your partner or a parent, or anyone that has seen you sleeping it is generally a sign that medical attention is required. If any of the following occur more than once it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
- Snoring loudly – to the point of disturbing your own sleep or the sleep of others around you.
- Waking up gasping or choking – deprived of oxygen.
- Observable cessation of breathing during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness to the point of interfering with your work or social life.
Causes and Risk Factors
Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs as a result of the muscles in the back of your throat relaxing more than they should be to allow normal breathing patterns. These muscles support the soft palate, known as the uvula – a triangular shaped piece of tissue which hands from the tonsils and tongue area. This is responsible for snoring most often.
When your muscles relax, the airway narrows, and even closes making your breathing stop for up to 10 to 20 seconds. This lowers the level of oxygen in your blood and causes a buildup of carbon dioxide.
Your brain senses this impaired breathing and tries to wake you from sleep so that you can reopen your airways. This is usually so brief you won’t remember it. For many this process will keep repeating over 25 to 30 times per hour, all night.
Certain Risk Factors increase your chances of getting Obstructive Sleep Apnea, including:
- Being Overweight – most of those suffering from OSA are overweight. Fat deposits causes blockages in your airways.
- Narrow Airways – Some people naturally have narrow airways from birth, they will usually require their tonsils be removed at an early age.
- Hypertension – High Blood Pressure
- Smoking – Smokers are far more likely to have OSA
- Sex – Males are 2 times as likely to have OSA
- Family History – Genetics play a huge role in the development of OSA
- Chronic Nasal Congestion – for those who are always congested, regardless of the reason – OSA is more likely to develop.
- Asthma – Asthma has been linked to OSA in many patients.
There are a number of treatments available for OSA in addition to lifestyle changes that must be made. One of the most common treatments available to patients is the use of a device that will help to keep your airways open during sleep. Also there are oral mouthpiece options that help to push the jaw forward during sleep. This oral apparatus is the preferred method of treatment, and likely what Dr. Pinkhasova will prescribe. In more severe cases surgery is an option as well.