It's Not Just Snoring: The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Some 22 million Americans live with sleep apnea. It’s an extremely common condition that occurs when you stop breathing for periods of time while you sleep. Don’t think that’s you? If you snore loudly, wake up in the night gasping for breath, or suffer from daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea may be to blame.

Sleep apnea can have a couple of different causes. Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form, occurs when something blocks your airways. When you sleep, the muscles of your throat relax and can close your breathing passages. 

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn’t send the right messages through your nervous system to the muscles that control breathing. It’s also possible to have complex sleep apnea syndrome, which is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. 

Loud snoring is the most commonly identified symptom of sleep apnea, but the truth is that the condition can cause more than bothersome snoring. 

Lori Haigler, MD, Richard Pavelock, MD, CMD, and our team at Family Medicine and Acute Care of Sandhills in Cameron, North Carolina regularly treat sleep apnea to help patients stay their healthiest. Read on to learn more about the dangers of sleep apnea and why you need to treat it. 

Recognizing the symptoms of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea has a number of recognizable symptoms, but many people ignore them. In fact, up to 80% of sleep apnea cases go undiagnosed

The major signs of sleep apnea include:

Another telltale sign of sleep apnea is stopping breathing while you sleep. You won’t necessarily know this yourself; this symptom is usually reported by another person that shares the same bed or bedroom.

There are some factors that make it more likely you’ll develop sleep apnea. Men over the age of 40 are the most likely to suffer from sleep apnea. Other risk factors include a family history and a large neck circumference. 

The risks of untreated sleep apnea

Sleep apnea interrupts oxygen flow throughout your body. Because oxygen is so important for your brain, other organs, and muscles to function, sleep apnea can put you at risk for a variety of health complications. 

Chronic fatigue

A common symptom of sleep apnea is poor-quality sleep, insomnia, or chronic fatigue. Fatigue can impact your life in many ways, from decreased performance at work or school to difficulty with memory and motor skills. In older adults, sleep apnea can increase the risk of dementia. 

Chronic diseases

Untreated sleep apnea can put you at risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and asthma. It can also increase your risk of suffering a stroke, heart attack, or heart failure.  

Vision changes

Sleep apnea may also increase your risk of developing a variety of eye conditions that can impact your vision. Glaucoma and dry eye are two common conditions that are linked to unmanaged sleep apnea.  

Don’t ignore the signs of sleep apnea; it’s important to get an exam and find a treatment that works for you. Make an appointment at Family Medicine and Acute Care of Sandhills by phone at 919-295-6862 or online today.

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