Obstructive sleep apnea is not only one of the worst types of sleep disorders but the stealthy manner in which it creeps in and overpowers the victim is particularly nasty. Not only is this illness known for its short term distress but many of its long term consequences are fatal. How much do you know about it?
What is the disorder all about?
Arising primarily out of untreated snoring problems, it happens with the narrowing of the air pipe that causes major breathing distress. It is marked by recurrent pauses in breathing, where a single pause could be for about 10 seconds and if the condition is serious, the patient may stop breathing 5 to 30 times in an hour and several times in the night.
The brain, the controller of all muscular activities, sends out relevant signal to breathing muscles as to when to breathe. In case of any miscommunication or lack of synchronization between the two, i.e., the sender and the recipients of the signals the result is breathing distress.
This particular disorder happens when the recipient of the brain signals – in this case the breathing muscles, cannot implement the command to breathe because of obstructions in the air passage. It happens when there is a complete collapse and blockage of the upper respiratory tract.
What are the typical signs?
Many call it a treacherous sleep disorder because most of the sleep apnea symptoms show up during sleep. The typical signs witnessed by the bed partner are gasps and choking during sleep, loud and persistent snoring interspersed by silent pauses, restlessness during sleep, etc. The features of the illness that become apparent to the patient are excessive daytime sleepiness, rapid and sudden weight gain, mood disorders like depression, irritability, daytime tiredness, need for frequent urination at night, reduced libido, etc.
Restoration of obstruction-free breathing is the primary aim of therapy. The doctor tries to help the patient breathe normally in the quickest and most efficient manner no matter what therapy option is selected.
Sleep apnea treatment is based on cause of illness, site of obstruction in the airway tract and severity of the condition. For mild to moderate conditions, CPAP therapy is most effective. Alongside several lifestyle and self help initiatives are also recommended. These include weight loss, quitting alcohol, raising pillow height, etc. Surgery is often the best option for treating severe conditions.
Doctors are forced to think surgery if the condition is serious and does not respond to any non-surgical therapy option. Some surgeries are genioglossus advancement; mandibular myotomy, tracheotomy, uvulo-palato-pharyngoplasty (UPPP), laser assisted uvuloplasty (LAUP), hyoid suspension; maxillomandibular surgery; and bariatric surgery.
You need to be sure what type of sleep disorder you are suffering from. This could be difficult at times, since excessive daytime sleepiness is common not only to this disorder but also present in hypersomnia. It is one of the main narcolepsy symptoms as well. How can you avoid the confusion?
– Study the age when the illness has set in. If it is around 50 years of age, it is apnea since other illnesses set in much earlier.
– Sudden sleep attacks are typical experiences for the narcoleptic patient; not so in any other illness.
– Treatment choices also make a difference. Devices, changing sleeping posture and even surgery are common options for treating apnea. This may not be so with other illnesses.
Tough but not impossible
Though one of the toughest ailments to diagnose, you can help yourself by gathering more information about obstructive sleep apnea so that you are aware of the typical signs. This can push you to seek early treatment, before the condition worsens.