Health Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Up to 15% of people suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), and the majority of individuals do not even know that they have this condition.  Symptoms of excessive fatigue, daytime sleepiness, morning headache and dry or sore throat upon awakening are often due to sleep apnea, which results from intermittent airway collapse throughout the night leading to poor quality, fragmented sleep.  While overweight and middle-aged to older men are the most common group affected, younger people, post-menopausal women, individuals with a receding jawline and those with a family history of OSA are also at risk.  A frequent tip off to this diagnosis is the partner who complains that an individual has episodes of gasping during the night and/or who snores loudly.

Health risks of undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea are significant.  These include increased incidence of heart failure, heart rhythm abnormalities, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and accidents. Diagnosis is made by a home or in-hospital sleep study, and treatment usually consists of sleeping with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device or a custom made oral splint to keep the airway open throughout the night.  Sometimes weight loss alone or airway surgery is helpful.

Take the STOP-BANG Questionnaire to assess your risk of sleep apnea.  Score 1 point for each positive response.  A score of 0-2 is low risk, 3-4 is intermediate risk and 5 or greater is high risk.  If you are in the intermediate to high risk category, see your medical provider for further evaluation and possible treatment.

  1. Do you Snore loudly?
  2. Do you often feel Tired, fatigued or sleepy during the day?
  3. Has anyone Observed that you stop breathing, choke or gasp during your sleep?
  4. Do you have or are you being treated for high blood Pressure?
  5. Is your Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 35?
  6. Is your Age greater than 50?
  7. Is your Neck circumference 16″ or greater?
  8. Are you of the male Gender?

North Idaho Direct Primary Care places a high emphasis on preventative care, including the diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea.  Call us today at 208-772-5204 and find out more about how we can help you attain your personal health goals.  Please click here if you found this article helpful and would like to sign up to receive our monthly medical newsletter.

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