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Could you have sleep apnea?

Do you often wake up tired, maybe with a sore throat or headache? Are you tired much of the day? Maybe you’re not getting good sleep because your breathing is disrupted by a common condition called sleep apnea.

There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA causes breathing to repeatedly stop and start during sleep. This happens because throat muscles sometimes relax and block your airway. When this happens at least five times per hour while you sleep, it is medically defined as obstructive sleep apnea.

The key signs of OSA include disturbed sleep caused by snoring, restlessness, and interruptions of regular respiratory patterns. Daytime symptoms include fatigue, trouble concentrating, waking with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headache, and decreased sex drive. Many people may not think of snoring as a sign of something potentially serious, and not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a relatively common medical condition. It is believed that more than 85% of patients with major OSA symptoms have never been diagnosed. OSA is an under-recognized and under-diagnosed medical condition, with a lot of negative consequences on a patient’s health and society as a whole. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, job impairment, motor vehicle crashes, and even death. Sleep apnea can also worsen diabetes and high blood pressure, and can lead to kidney problems.

Anyone can develop OSA. However, certain factors put you at increased risk. These include age, excess weight, having a narrow airway, smoking and diabetes. Sleep apnea has long been thought of as a disease that mainly affects older, overweight men, but recent evidence shows that sleep apnea is an epidemic for men and women of all ages and sizes.

Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Screening for OSA can be done via questionnaires that ask about symptoms. If the questionnaire answers suggest OSA, a formal sleep study can be done as a diagnostic test.

Baby Min Than, MD, board certified family medicine physician, offers free sleep apnea consultations at Mercyhealth Woodstock, 2000 Lake Ave. To schedule your consultation, call (815) 337-7100.

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