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.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sleep Apnea Can Masquerade as Dementia

As we age, many of us fear losing our mental faculties. Dementia can make us forget our loved ones, have paranoia, lose the ability to distinguish between present and past, or lose the ability to focus or concentrate. However, many people who experience pronounced dementia symptoms may find that their symptoms are due either in whole or in part to obstructive sleep apnea rather than dementia.

Seniors with cognitive problems often experience significantly increased quality of life once they start getting treatment for their sleep apnea. According to researchers in the field, nearly half of all older adults have sleep apnea, and the proportion is even higher among adults that manifest the symptoms of dementia.

The prevalence of sleep apnea in this population is due to a number of factors, including both an increasing tendency to be overweight as well as the weakening of muscles and tissues whose rigidity previously held open the airway at night. The condition is so common among older adults that it may be in large part responsible for the misconception that older adults are supposed to be sleepy during the day.

One of the problems with treating an apneic elderly population experiencing symptoms of dementia is that many do not comply with the typical treatment regimen of CPAP. Although many seniors were able to use CPAP, they did not use it for the recommended time overnight, and others simply cannot use it enough to get the full benefit. This makes it important that seniors consider all possible sleep apnea treatment options.

Furthermore, doctors recommend that "Any time there are symptoms of dementia, you should think about sleep apnea and discuss it with your doctor."

If you or a loved one suffers from dementia and you would like to talk to a local sleep dentist about sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment, please contact IHATECPAP today.

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posted by Dr. Candelaria at 3:35 PM