Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, known in medicine as “sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS),” is a widespread chronic disease that involves repeated interruption of breathing during sleep.
These interruptions in breathing may cause frequent awakenings during the night. Although these wakes do not last long (sometimes only 2 or 3 seconds) and a person generally does not remember them even the next morning, they can also occur hundreds of times per night, preventing the patient from resting and making him tired throughout the day.
Causes of obstructive sleep apnea
At this stage you may wonder: What are the causes of this disease? In fact, there are no real “causes”, but factors that can contribute to narrowing of the upper airways can cause obstructive sleep apnea. Also, there are other possible causes, including:
- Significant weight gain.
- Drinking alcohol.
- Smoking habit.
- Use of sleep inducing medications and / or relaxants.
Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea
A patient with sleep apnea has some easily identifiable symptoms. At night, the patient experiences the following symptoms:
- Habitual snoring (all nights) and constant snoring (for at least 6 months).
- Sleep apnea (reported by partner).
- Awakening with a feeling of suffocation (not a permanent symptom).
- The need to urinate often.
- Excessive sweating.
During the day and during the day, the patient may exhibit all of the following symptoms:
- Drowsiness and feeling tired.
- Headache in the morning (that is, after waking up).
- Reduced focus, attention, and impaired ability to solve problems and perform business as usual.
- Changes, mood swings and personality changes.
- Change in abilities, experiences, and manual dexterity.
Moreover, there are some physical characteristics that distinguish obstructive sleep apnea: among these are the most common physical characteristics:
- Being overweight or obese (i.e., BMI -> 29 kg / m2).
- The circumference of the neck is more than 43 cm for men or 41 cm for women.
What are the health consequences of sleep apnea?
Diagnosis of the disease in a timely manner can be basic and necessary. Without a diagnosis, with delayed treatment and no attention to the topic, the long-term consequences of sleep apnea may vary, and these consequences include:
Patients with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases (arrhythmias – myocardial infarction – arterial hypertension – heart failure – congestive heart disease), all of which are due to or directly related to frequent hypoxia Which occurs during sleep apnea, heart rate fluctuations and blood pressure values.
Those who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to develop insulin resistance and thus could suffer from diabetes or high blood sugar.
Sleep apnea also affects social relationships, as this problem puts a sick person at risk due to daytime sleepiness and frequent changes in mood (especially depression).
Although sleep apnea syndrome is a widespread disease all over the world, this disorder is generally not diagnosed and treated. In most cases, this disease is often not recognized for two main reasons:
- The phenomenon of “snoring” is underestimated by both patients and doctors themselves.
- A structured method for diagnosing this disease is relatively unavailable and available.
Diagnostic method Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is a disease known as physiological and clinical diagnosis, which is relatively recent. It is a disease that develops gradually and requires – for this reason – classification in a timely manner by a physician.
So how do you make a correct diagnosis of sleep apnea?
1. Self-assessment test for apnea
First of all, you can call your partner, friends, or family, and ask them if they can hear you breathe or snore loudly during the night or if they notice your breathing.
In addition, you can take a sleep test with the STOP-BANG test that we will explain below. We remind you that the result does not replace a diagnosis made by a specialist.
The Stop-Bang Questionnaire is a popular scientific test, used to assess the risk of sleep apnea.
The questionnaire consists of 8 simple questions that can only be answered with yes / no. The three questions answered in the affirmative (yes) mean that you are at risk of suffering from sleep apnea.
Very important note: It is always recommended to consult a doctor to diagnose sleep apnea. The STOP-BANG questionnaire does not replace a specialist’s diagnosis.
Start the test: Read the following questions and answer them with yes or no and write down your answers. If you are unable to answer one of these questions, you can resort to asking the question to your partner or family members.
The first question: snoring
Do you suffer from strong, obvious snoring every night or most nights?
The second question: fatigue
Do you often feel tired or sleepy during the day?
The third question: sleep monitoring
Has anyone noticed that your breath stops every day at night?
The fourth question: arterial blood pressure
Do you suffer from high blood pressure? Or do you treat yourself for high blood pressure?
Fifth question: body mass index
Is your BMI higher than 35?
The sixth question: age
Are you over 50 years old?
The seventh question: neck circumference
Is your neck circumference (shirt collar size) greater than 41 cm if you are a woman or 43 cm if you are a man?
The eighth question: gender
Are you male?
2. The role of the doctor
If you suspect that you are suffering from sleep apnea, you should contact your physician immediately, who will assess your symptoms and, if necessary, will direct you to one of the centers devoted to studying sleep-related breathing disorders, which may be located both in care centers. Public or private health.
3. Your condition will be evaluated by a sleep specialist
Inside the center, a sleep specialist will perform some in-depth checks, including physical exams, such as weighing and neck circumference. Based on the results obtained after these tests, if you develop symptoms of sleep apnea, your doctor will prescribe radiography or heart and respiratory monitoring. This can all be done either in a health care home or at home.
Sleep apnea treatment
For a correct sleep apnea treatment, there are some indications and instructions that must be followed and implemented:
Weight loss: Excess weight is now a major risk factor for developing obstructive sleep apnea.
In patients with specific anatomical problems, surgery may be suggested (removal of part of the soft jaw and other tissues, oral and maxillofacial surgery, etc.) or, in specific cases, an orthodontic appliance that is mostly made of soft silicone. To be placed in the mouth during sleep.
However, the most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is a device similar to that used for artificial respiration during surgical procedures. In fact, this device can pump air and oxygen directly into the airway, keeping it “open.” This device is known as a pressure ventilator (CPAP / AUTOCPAP) and it is widely used in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea and has proven to be the best method. The fastest and most effective treatment for this problem.