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Key Aspects of Sleep Apnea

Updated on September 13, 2017

Do you know some of the key aspects about the medical condition known as sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a very common breathing condition that can range from mild to moderate to severe. This is not a disorder that can easily be brushed aside as it can become very serious and in some cases fatal. Sleep apnea is a progressive disorder, which means that it gets worse with time.

There are three categories of sleep apnea and these include obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA) and mixed sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the most common type of the three. In this case when a person who is sleeping attempts to breathe, it is not easy for air to pass from the nose and mouth and into the lungs. Breathing either becomes shallows or stops all together for instances of anywhere from ten to twenty seconds (or more in the most severe of cases). This can take place anywhere from a few times a night to hundreds of times. Each time normal breathing begins again by way or either a gasping or choking sensation. Central sleep apnea (CSA) results from the brain having crossed signals about normal breathing patterns. This type is rare. The final type, mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the first two.

There are approximately twelve to twenty million people in the United States who suffer from sleep apnea. More men suffer from it then women and it is also more common in those who are overweight and have a tendency towards loud, habitual snoring. However sleep apnea is evident in those who don't fit any of the criteria and children sometimes develop it as well. Adult sleep apnea is as common across the globe as is adult onset diabetes. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research did a study that showed that approximately 38,000 individuals die on an annual basis as a result of cardiovascular problems relating in one way or another to sleep apnea.

The most obvious signs of having acquired this sleep disorder include loud snoring, choking or gasping throughout the night and being excessively tired and unable to concentrate during the waking daytime hours. When sleep apnea is suspected it is important to schedule an appointment with the doctor. A thorough physical exam, coupled with a special test known as a polysomnogram (PSG) will help decide whether or not you suffer from sleep apnea. The doctor will also ask you questions about your medical history and your present lifestyle.

The goal of treatment for sleep apnea is to return to a state of "regular nighttime breathing" and to relieve any and all symptoms relating to the disorder such as snoring, irritability, excessive fatigue, etc. Lifestyle changes are often the first step towards relief from symptoms and after that is the most commonly prescribed treatment- continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Treatment for sleep apnea is also beneficial in improving other conditions such as high blood pressure and will greatly reduce a sufferer's chances of being struck down by a heart attack or a stroke.



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