Mistakes happen but this one is a costly one: affecting your health and happiness. You never bothered to treat two major health problems: obesity and snoring. Today you have been diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition you wish you knew much more about.
Yet you did not even know that you were a high risk individual. However, it is better late than never. Even now, you could learn about it, the signs, the reasons why you got affected, and most importantly, how to come out of the illness and breathe normally once more.
What is the condition and why did it affect you?
The most distressful part about sleep apnea is the recurrent breathing pauses during sleep. It happens when the airway narrows and is triggered by untreated snoring. There are three types of this condition and the obstructive type is most common. You are a high risk individual if you are
– You are obese
– You left snoring untreated.
Signs that announce the onset
Though one of the most common sleep disorders, it remains undiagnosed because a majority of sleep apnea symptoms show up during sleep. It is usually the bed partner who notices the loud and persistent snoring, frequent choking and gasping during sleep, etc and calls for medical help. The patient ultimately notices rapid and irrational weight gain, mood deterioration, excessive daytime sleepiness, rise in blood pressure, morning headaches, disturbed sleep, etc.
How to make sure of the type of illness
An overnight sleep study, also called polysomnogram examination is mandatory for officially diagnosing the condition. This is the only authentic and objective examination that reveals the nature of the illness, severity and site of obstruction in the airway.
Knowing the seriousness of the condition is critical, since the therapy is selected based on this factor alone.
At this stage, it is important to know that in the absence of this test, the illness could be misdiagnosed. This is because there are some overlapping signals that create diagnostic confusion. For example, excessive daytime sleepiness is not only one of the features of apnea but also one of the hypersomnia symptoms. In fact, it is one of the ruling signs of narcolepsy as well.
To avoid misdiagnosis, certain parallel features of other sleep disorders need to be studied. For example, what is narcolepsy? it is a disorder arising out of neurological dysfunction and carries another important sign: sudden sleep attacks. This is a clear indicator of the type of illness. Age of onset as well as therapy choices help in proper identification too. Apnea sets in around 50 years of age; other sleep disorders normally set in earlier. Sleep apnea treatment involves use of devices, changing sleeping position or even surgery if the condition is severe. No other sleep disorder is managed with these initiatives.
How to get out of the condition?
Mild to moderate cases are treated with the help of CPAP therapy, special pillows, exercises for the breathing muscles, quitting alcohol, changing sleep position, raising pillow height, etc.
However, for the management of serious cases of obstructive sleep apnea, surgery is the most preferred option. Some common surgeries are genioglossus advancement; mandibular myotomy, tracheotomy, uvulo-palato-pharyngoplasty (UPPP), laser assisted uvuloplasty (LAUP), hyoid suspension; maxillomandibular surgery; and bariatric surgery.