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About Sleep Apnea
Welcome to the Sleep Apnea Health Channel by eMedTV. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by interruptions of a person's breathing while he or she is asleep. People with sleep apnea often have loud snoring and daytime sleepiness. Treatment for sleep apnea focused on relieving symptoms and restoring regular nighttime breathing. If sleep apnea is left untreated, the chances of having high blood pressure, a heart attack, or stroke are increased.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three different types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea. In all three forms, the respiratory system narrows, impairing the amount of oxygen the person takes into his or her lungs. These types of sleep apnea differ in their causes and potential treatments.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
There are different causes for each form of sleep apnea. One cause of sleep apnea -- relaxation of the soft tissue in the back of the throat that blocks the passage of air -- leads to what's known as obstructive sleep apnea. Faulty signals from the brain to the muscles that control breathing (known as central sleep apnea) are another common cause of sleep apnea. Other medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, acromegaly, and Marfan syndrome, are also possible causes of sleep apnea.
Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Symptoms of sleep apnea often include feeling sleepy during the day, snoring loudly and frequently, and having trouble breathing during the night. The majority of people with sleep apnea symptoms are not aware that they are experiencing them. People who suffer from severe symptoms of sleep apnea are two to three times more likely to have automobile crashes, and also have an increased risk of having high blood pressure, heart attacks, and even strokes.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
To make an accurate diagnosis of sleep apnea, a sleep recording test may be needed. This test records a variety of body functions while you sleep, including what happens with your breathing. The results of the sleep recording test, as well as a medical history and physical exam, can help your healthcare provider diagnose this condition.
Treatments for Sleep Apnea
The goals of treatment for sleep apnea include restoring regular nighttime breathing and relieving the person's symptoms. Common forms of sleep apnea treatment include: lifestyle changes, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), a mouthpiece, and surgery. Medications are not typically an effective form of treatment, but if nasal congestion is contributing to breathing problems, decongestants may be helpful.
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