By Abid Malik, MD, Director for Orlando Health Sleep Medicine
Although nearly 18 million Americans suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, it’s quite possible you may not even know that you have it. Often, a family member may first recognize signs of this disorder that affects breathing during sleep.
Despite its prevalence, sleep apnea is often an under-diagnosed condition, perhaps because its symptoms are so broad. Beyond telltale signs such as sleep disruptions and snoring, those suffering from sleep apnea also may experience a number of other symptoms, including:
- Difficulty concentrating
- A dry mouth and sore throat
Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s airway collapses, or is blocked, causing a pause in breathing during sleep. This breathing distress wakes the brain enough for normal breathing to resume. Usually, the brain will fall right back asleep, and you have no memory of the apnea event.
While there are several risk factors for sleep apnea, more than half of those affected are overweight. It is most common in men of African-American, Hispanic or Pacific Islander descent, but women also can develop sleep apnea, although usually after menopause. Overall risk increases with age.
Sleep Apnea Is Treatable
There is a need to increase awareness about this serious sleep disorder, which can affect multiple organ systems. Without treatment, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure and higher risk factors associated with diabetes, heart failure and stroke.
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that requires long-term management. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, breathing devices such as the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine or surgery can successfully treat sleep apnea for most.
If you think you or a loved one may be at risk, or are showing signs of sleep apnea, talk with your doctor about scheduling an appointment with Orlando Health Physicians Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine Group at 321.841.7856.