While affecting more than 18 million Americans, and hundreds of millions more worldwide, sleep apnea today still remains woefully undiagnosed in patients, whether its lack of education of individuals who are struggling with things like snoring, constantly being tired during the day, and repeatedly waking up at night, or the failure for medical professionals to ensure that their patients with symptoms are given a sleep study, millions of patients still are unaware that they may be suffering. While mostly prevalent in males that are struggling with weight and over the age of 40 (and more common in both African American and Hispanic Males), sleep apnea can affect anyone, including women and children, and even those that may be in excellent shape.
There are main types of sleep apnea, Obstructive, which is caused by your airway being blocked and your throat collapsing during the night, and central, which is a directly related to your brain
failing to signal your throat muscles to breathe, so while your brain needs oxygen to survive, it may not be informing the rest of your body to breathe throughout the night, thanks, brain! Some patients can have a mix of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. OSA is the most common form, and is usually combated with a CPAP machine, while CSA is treated with a BiLevel Device or a VPAP machine.
There are several severe conditions that can be caused from failing to treat sleep apnea. We recently covered
three of the most severe ones in a blog post, but to recap, things such as high blood pressure, heart disease that can lead to heart attacks where we’ve seen deaths in some famous individuals such as Reggie White, and type 2 diabetes have all been tied to failure to treat your sleep apnea affectively. When we’re talking about potentially life threatening diseases such as heart disease, and we’ve seen individuals who failed to treat their sleep apnea pass away, why does the disease still remain undiagnosed in millions of patients?
The biggest problem lies with health care professionals. Properly educating doctors on the problem will help patients who are struggling with sleep notice certain signs that are common amongst sleep apnea patients and get the proper testing done to ensure that they start receiving treatment. While not everybody who snores has sleep apnea, snoring is one of the biggest signs that a patient may be suffering, so whether it’s a friend or loved one who points it out, if you are an unusually loud snorer, it might be time to get tested. Snoring isn’t the only sign though, individuals who are tired throughout the day, or wake up with a dry mouth may be suffering. Sleep is very important, not only for your overall health and battling things such as heart disease and high blood pressure, but proper rest can make you perform better at your job, at school, or just doing normal every day activities.
If we are going to continue to fight sleep apnea, it is important that our healthcare professionals and doctors are properly educated about the signs of sleep apnea, and while they can’t physically be in the room with you while you sleep to see if you’re snoring, I know that every time I am in the doctor’s office they ask me how I’ve been sleeping, or feeling, or if I have had any problems lately. If my doctor is doing it, then I am guessing yours is too, and when the doctor asks, making sure they’re listening to their patients and looking for signs of potential sleep apnea will be a big help in making sure that we continue to diagnose those who are struggling, so we can help prevent unwanted deaths or long term health effects of patients.
Diagnosing sleep apnea is just the first step, fighting it is a whole new ballgame, as once we know, where we go from there is going to be extremely important. First things first, patients must get a sleep study done to really know if they have sleep apnea, and while this can be done in a big building with beds and equipment, it’s also possible to be done at home in the comfort of your own bed. How can they expect to test you for sleep apnea if you’re forced to sleep with a bunch of equipment hooked up to you in a bed that isn’t even your own? I know I couldn’t, give me my own bed where I know I’ll be comfortable, then when I fall asleep we can see if I’m struggling! Saving hundreds of dollars on the test being done from your own home isn’t too bad either.
Once you’ve completed the test and gone over the results with your doctor, that’s when you can discuss the next step. The most common form of treatment is using a CPAP machine
, which is another battle completely, as you have to wear it every night with a mask over your face. Sadly we know patients who refuse due to the look of the machine and mask, but when we’re talking about long term health and making sure you get enough sleep to kick butt every day, is it really
worth worrying about how you look at night? While some patients may fear looks, others might worry about comfort, which is why the fight against sleep apnea has to be taken on two stages. The manufacturers making the products must ensure that their masks are comfortable and fit thousands of different sized heads, so that patients are willing to wear it every night. Doctors and medical professionals are just one stage, ResMed, Respironics, and others need to do their end of deal as well.
If we’re going to continue to diagnose those that are struggling, we need to make sure that the medical professionals are properly educated and ready to help. Patients can only do so much if they think they are not getting enough sleep, the people they come too need to have the knowledge to help. And if you’re one of those 18 million American’s, or the hundreds of millions more around the world suffering, let’s make sure that when we are diagnosed, we’re using that CPAP machine. Yea it might be bulky and look funky, and sometimes it might be uncomfortable, but we’re talking about fighting off things like heart attacks just by getting the proper treatment, getting treatment is the most important thing as we work to find those who are undiagnosed and make sure they’re getting the best possible treatment.