Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans and can lead to hypertension, heart attack, stroke, depression, muscle pain, fibromyalgia, morning headaches, and excessive daytime sleepiness.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sleep Apnea: Not an Easy Diagnosis

Sleep apnea can be very tricky to diagnose. If you sleep alone, or if you and your sleep partner are not aware of the symptoms of sleep apnea, you may not even realize you are waking (though just slightly) as many as hundreds of times per night, gasping for air and causing undue strain on your hard-working heart. The condition can go on undetected for some time until it becomes life-threatening.

For most individuals, their sleep partner is the first to notice something is not right. While snoring is a frequent nighttime occurrence, especially among overweight males, the gasping, choking and gurgling sounds that occur as your body is repeatedly deprived of oxygen can be disconcerting.

A patient's husband had been disturbing his sleep and his wife's with his snoring for about a year. One night, she awoke to hear him stop breathing completely, and within a few seconds, he began snoring again. She thought it was odd, but soon went back to sleep and didn't give it another thought. However, as the nights went on, she heard him stop breathing more often and for longer periods of time. She would try to wake him up, but most times he rolled into a different position, stopped snoring for a few minutes, and then started up all over again. In the morning, he rarely remembered being woken up many times by his wife. But he was very fatigued during the day, began to gain weight, felt generally unwell, and lost his usual charm and zest for life.

After an evaluation at a sleep clinic, the man was fitted with a CPAP machine. It was dreadful to sleep with, and he soon abandoned it. A few months later, during a routine physical, our family doctor noticed he had a smaller than normal airway and sent him to a specialist. That visited resulted in a surgery called "Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty" (UPPP) and, for this patient, it was a lifesaver.

Some sleep apnea signs and symptoms include:

Stopping breathing frequently during sleep.
Choking or gasping for air while sleeping
Unusually loud snoring
Frequent wakening to gasp for air
Night sweats
Daytime fatigue
Morning dry mouth, headaches and sore throat

It's important to know that snoring is not the same as sleep apnea. Snoring is a loud vibration from the throat that is not necessarily harmful. Individuals with sleep apnea, however, are deprived of oxygen, and suffer major health issues. If you find it confusing, just remember that if you have sleep apnea you will snore, but if you do snore, it does not necessarily mean you are suffering from sleep apnea.

If you suspect you have sleep apnea, don't wait to get help. For more information about scheduling a private consultation in Gurnee, Illinois, please contact Dr. Ira Shapira at www.ihatecpap.com

posted by Lynn at 9:38 AM