Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

In today’s fast-paced world, getting a restful night of sleep can be a precious gift. It can be an even greater gift for those suffering from sleep apnea, a disorder in which a person stops breathing during sleep. These patients can stop breathing hundreds of times during sleep for up to 10 seconds each time. The result is the brain and body do not receive enough oxygen, leaving the patient at risk for numerous diseases and severe fatigue.

Sleep apnea can affect patients of any age, size, or race, but there are a few risk factors that make people more prone to developing the disorder. Patients who are male, overweight, over the age of 40, have large tonsils or tongues, or have a family history of sleep apnea are more likely to develop the disorder.

Symptoms include everything from morning headaches and loud snoring to waking up with a sore or dry throat. Restless sleep, mood changes, and forgetfulness are other symptoms. When left untreated, patients put themselves at risk for developing more serious conditions, such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and heart failure. In addition, their relationships may suffer, and they may have difficulty carrying out daily activities because of fatigue.

Patients who suspect they have sleep apnea should visit a medical professional to diagnose the disorder. Doctors may ask patients to use a pulse oximeter while sleeping. The device measures the oxygen saturation of the blood and the heart rate. The tool can determine whether the patient is receiving enough oxygen during sleep.

If a patient has sleep apnea, there are solid treatment options available. Patients can make behavioral changes to their lives, if necessary, such as losing weight, avoiding sleeping pills and alcohol, or changing positions while sleeping to promote proper breathing. For some patients, doctors may recommend surgery in the nasal or throat area to correct the disorder.


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