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Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatments

Do you hear complaints from your significant other about how your snoring wakes them up in the middle of the night? Or prevents them from falling asleep in the first place? Do they prod you to wake you up out of concern that you may have stopped breathing at any point throughout the night? If you fit this description, it’s possible that you have a condition known as obstructive sleep apnea.

Those who suffer from sleep apnea have pauses or reductions in the normal flow of air to their lungs while they are sleeping. This occurs as a result of your airway becoming restricted or obstructed in some way. When you sleep, the muscles throughout your body become more relaxed. This includes the muscles that help maintain your airway open, which enables unrestricted airflow to your lungs. 

In a normal sleeping state, your upper neck will continue to remain open enough to allow air to readily move through. However, some people have a more constricted neck region. As a result, during sleep, the muscles in a person’s upper neck might relax, which can cause them to cease breathing, often for more than ten seconds at a time. 

Apnea is the word used in the medical field to describe when a person stops breathing.

When you stop breathing while you’re sleeping, you usually aren’t aware of it until you wake up. But, on the other hand, you can wake up feeling unrefreshed and spend the day feeling sluggish and exhausted. 

In the event that you have this problem, your physician will carry out a physical examination, during which they will examine your mouth, throat, and neck in great detail. 

A questionnaire about daytime tiredness, sleep quality, and bedtime routines may be presented to you as an option for participation in a survey. In addition, if your doctor thinks you could have sleep apnea, they may recommend that you get a polysomnogram, which is a type of sleep study in which you are monitored while you are sleeping.

If your doctor determines that you suffer from sleep apnea, the therapy will focus on maintaining an open airway while you sleep. This will be done in order to improve your breathing. Read on for a detailed explanation of obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a form of sleep-related breathing problem that can affect people of any age, including children. Those who suffer from it have a total or partial obstruction of their upper airway when they are sleeping. This makes it difficult to breathe and, in addition to waking up your bed companion, may be quite disruptive to a full night’s sleep for both of you. 

It’s the same as trying to take a breath through a straw. It is not as tough when you are awake because you are aware of it, and you may increase the pace at which you breathe. However, you may not have that same compensating mechanism when you are asleep, so it wakes you up. 

Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition that affects elderly males more commonly than it does women or children. But it can also affect either gender.

Causes Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In most cases, obstructive sleep apnea happens when the muscles in the throat and the tongue relax during sleep, which causes the airway to become partially or totally blocked. During periods of sleep in which breathing is disrupted or a decreased flow of air into the lungs, the amount of oxygen present in the blood temporarily drops.

Having swollen tissues in your mouth, throat, or nose can also cause obstructive sleep apnea to develop in a person. It’s possible, for instance, that your tonsils have become swollen. However, it could happen that you won’t have any issues with this if you do it during the day while you’re awake and standing up. 

However, once you lie down at night, your tonsils might push down on your airway. This can cause you to have sleep apnea because your airway becomes constricted.

The presence of big tonsils or adenoids is one of the most typical root causes of sleep apnea in children.

If you have a problem with your jaw or facial bones, you may be at risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.

The following factors increase your risk of developing sleep apnea:

Obesity

Obesity

When fat accumulates in the neck region, it can pressure the tissues surrounding the airways. This can cause narrowing of the airways, which in turn can cause sleep apnea.

Certain Medicines

Certain Medicines

Relaxing the muscles and tissues of the throat, which medications like sleeping pills and sedatives can cause, can make the throat more constricted.

Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol Consumption

Consuming alcohol disrupts normal function in the region of the brain that regulates breathing. This might cause the muscles that control breathing to relax, which would then constrict the airway.

Sleeping on Your Back

Sleeping on Your Back

It’s possible that sleeping on your back with one or more pillows on top of you might worsen your sleep apnea symptoms.

Types of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

There are three distinct categories of obstructed breathing occurrences, which are as follows:

Apnea is defined as a halt in breathing that lasts for at least ten seconds and can be either total or almost total.

A decrease in airflow that lasts for at least ten seconds is one of the defining characteristics of hypopnea.

The term “respiratory effort-related arousal” is represented by the abbreviation RERA. A restriction in breathing that causes increased respiratory effort and ultimately leads to arousals. Still, it does not match the requirements for apnea or hypopnea.

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Despite the prevalence of OSA, some individuals are unable to identify its symptoms. They may, alternatively, believe that their challenges are a natural part of the aging process, are the result of stress, or are just something they have dealt with for such a long time that they have become accustomed to it.

 However, the symptoms of OSA have the ability to interrupt your life, and the condition itself may create major consequences. 

If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, it is important to be aware of the following signs.

So that you can get diagnosed and treated more quickly:

  • Frequent interruptions to one’s sleep
  • Sounds like choking or gasping, frequently heard while sleeping
  • Irregular breathing patterns heard while sleeping
  • Snoring that is really loud
  • Having headaches upon waking up
  • Depression and/or emotional instability
  • Experiencing feelings of exhaustion throughout the day
  • Having a hard time concentrating during the day
  • Behavior problems amongst children and adolescents

Typical manifestations of obstructive sleep apnea in children may include the following:

  • Snoring
  • Daytime cognitive and behavioral issues, such as inability to pay attention, distractibility, aggression, and hyperactivity
  • Breathing via the mouth
  • Tonsils and adenoids enlargement
  • Sleep disturbances and restless sleep
  • Sleepwalking or night terrors (parasomnias)
  • Wetting the bed
  • Weight loss or poor weight gain
  • Excessive drowsiness during the day

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

A diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnea can be reached by an array of medical examinations and assessments. Polysomnography (PSG) and home sleep studies are two types of sleep apnea tests that can be utilized in the diagnostic process of obstructive sleep apnea.

A physician will do a physical exam on their patients. It will consist of checking the patient’s blood pressure, measuring the neck and waistline, and looking for any abnormalities in the back of the throat. 

They will also ask the patient questions about how they go about their daily activities and their family history to gain a more comprehensive picture of the patient’s way of life.

The PSG records your brainwaves, eye movements, muscle strength, breathing patterns, oxygen levels, and several other physiological activities. The in-home sleep apnea test is primarily concerned with the patient’s breathing patterns as well as their oxygen levels, and it may be enough for many people. 

However, depending on the technology that is utilized, it may not capture sleep at all or may not record it as precisely as would be the case when testing in a sleep laboratory.

Doctors may additionally monitor your carbon dioxide levels or your esophageal pressure depending on your past medical history as well as the structure of your mouth, nose, and throat.

The information gathered about your breathing patterns during the sleep study tracks how your breathing changed in response to the various sleep positions and phases. After that, a qualified sleep technologist will review your tape in order to assign a score to it, and a physician who specializes in sleep medicine will interpret the data.

Treatment Options For OSA

Your doctor may offer several of the following possible treatments for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), depending on the findings of the study that you had done:

Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy

It is the method of treatment that is regarded as the gold standard for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in the majority of patients and individuals whose symptoms are quite minor. The patient wears a face mask while they sleep, and pressured air is delivered from the CPAP machine through a connecting hose. 

Some of the devices also come with humidifiers to make breathing a little bit simpler. In addition, bi-level positive air pressure therapy, often known as BiPAP therapy, is an alternative treatment option that may be suggested to patients who do not respond to continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment or who are unable to tolerate CPAP.

Oral Appliance

Oral Appliance

A mouth guard or mouth piece may be prescribed for mild to severe OSA symptoms and snoring, depending on the severity of the condition. These home appliances may be broken down into two broad groups. First, mandibular advancement devices, sometimes known as MADs, are medical devices that physically move the jaw forward. This opens up the airway.

Tongue-retaining devices, often known as TRDs, are designed to grasp the tongue in order to stop it from obstructing the airway. Check with your physician even though none of these devices require a prescription because the vast majority of them may be purchased over the counter and do not call for a special order.

Surgery

If non-invasive treatments like CPAP and mouth appliances are unable to cure the symptoms of OSA, a doctor may suggest surgery as an additional option. It is often necessary to perform surgery in order to rectify anatomical defects that have a role in the obstruction of airways. It may also be beneficial to remove tissue from the soft palate, uvula, tonsils, adenoids, and/or tongue.

In the medical treatment called an adenotonsillectomy, the tonsils and adenoids of many children who have been diagnosed with OSA are surgically removed.

Wrapping Up

There are different types of sleep apnea, the most common of which is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Symptoms include pauses in breathing and irregular breathing patterns during sleep. The obstruction of the airways is the root cause of OSA. 

The disease known as obstructive sleep apnea can be prevented by avoiding the risk factors that are known to contribute to its development. Because of this, the following strategies could be helpful in preventing OSA:

  • Either stay at a healthy weight or get rid of the excess weight
  • Reduce or eliminate your intake of alcohol in the hours before bed
  • Quit smoking, especially in the hours leading up to the night
  • You should try to avoid using any sleeping pills or other tranquilizers

Snoring can be nothing more than simple snoring at times. But it may indicate obstructive sleep apnea when it occurs in conjunction with other symptoms.

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