Common signs of sleep apnea include snoring and gasping or choking sounds during sleep. Like snoring, sleep apnea is more common in men, but it can occur in women too, especially during and after menopause. Having excess body weight, a narrow airway or misaligned jaw all increase the risk of sleep apnea.
Is Treating OSA Important?
Treating obstructive sleep apnea is incredibly important to your health. When left untreated, sleep apnea often causes excessive daytime sleepiness or fatigue, as well as morning headaches and memory loss. Sleep apnea also is a threat to your safety as it increases your risk of drowsy driving and workplace accidents. Untreated sleep apnea raises your risk for serious health problems. These include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Chronic acid reflux
- Alzheimer's disease
Severe, untreated sleep apnea even increases your risk of death.
How is OSA diagnosed?
A doctor must determine if you have obstructive sleep apnea. A doctor who is a sleep specialist can provide you with a complete sleep evaluation. This may involve either an overnight sleep study at a sleep center or a home sleep apnea test. The sleep doctor will interpret the data from your sleep study to make a diagnosis.
How is OSA Treated?
Your sleep doctor will discuss treatment options with you. These options include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliance therapy and surgery.
- CPAP therapy involves wearing a face mask connected by tubing to a constantly running machine.
- Oral appliance therapy uses a mouth guard-like device - worn only during sleep - to maintain an open, unobstructed airway.
- Surgical options include a variety of procedures. All have varying side effects and rates of success.
Research shows that oral appliance therapy is an effective treatment option for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. An oral appliance is worn in the mouth only while you sleep and fits like a sports mouth guard or an orthodontic retainer. Oral appliances support your jaw in a forward position to help maintain an open upper airway.
Many patients consider a sleep apnea appliance to be more comfortable to wear than a CPAP mask. Oral appliances also are quiet, portable and easy to care for.
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